Photo © Photography: John Tsantes and Neil Greentree © Robert Feinberg
Gallery Text

Few works embody the convergence of venerable cultural practices and novel pictorial approaches in Edo painting more strikingly than this view of a full moon hovering over reeds. Framed as if seen through a window, the image encapsulates the tradition of moon-viewing, an activity long associated with friendship and yearning: no matter the physical distance separating loved ones, all can look up at the night sky and gaze on the same moon. The enormous archaic seal amplifies this connection to the past. Yet Bunchō does not simply repeat an established ink-painting theme. The unusual size of the image and Western-style low horizon generate a feeling of "thereness," and the inscription confirms that the work commemorates an actual harvest moon gathering in Edo. By interweaving a singular personal episode with that of countless historical predecessors, Bunchō creates a "true view," an image rooted not in optical reality but in the subjective experience of a site.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Tani Bunchō 谷文晁, Japanese (Edo 1763 - 1841)
Grasses and Moon
Work Type
painting, hanging scroll
15th day of the 8th month, 1817
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Edo period, 1615-1868
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3500, Special Exhibitions Gallery
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Hanging scroll; ink on silk
image only: 82.8 x 168 cm (32 5/8 x 66 1/8 in.)
with mount: 198 x 194 cm (77 15/16 x 76 3/8 in.)
display dimensions: 205.7 x 201.3 cm (81 x 79 1/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • signature: 文晁 [Bunchō]
  • seal: square, intaglio: 文晁図書 [Bunchō tosho]
  • inscription: 文化丁丑仲秋良夜遊墨水 / 時清光如昼日中 / 真景如此 / 後七日寫之 / 似大道寺君清鑑 [On a beautiful night in mid-autumn (the fifteenth day of the eighth month), 1817, as I wandered the banks of the Sumida River, a clear moon shone as brilliantly as the sun, and the scene is rendered in this true view. Seven days later, I painted this work and presented it for the viewing pleasure of Mr. Daidōji.]
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Kobayashi Tadashi, Dento to saisei (Tokyo, Japan, 1990), p. 136, #179

Chiba City Museum of Art, Celebrated four seasons : an aspect of Japanese paintings from the 16th to the 19th centuries, exh. cat. (Chiba, Japan, 1996), #113, p. 192

Hiroshi Mizuo, "Tani Buncho: Autumn Grasses and Moon", Kokka, Kokkasha (Tokyo, 2000), 1257, pp. 23-24

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, exh. cat., Yomiuri Shinbunsha (Tokyo, 2013), pp. 98-99, cat. 39

Musée Cernuschi, Le Japon au fil des saisons: Collection Robert et Betsy Feinberg, exh. cat., Paris-Musées (Paris, 2014), pp. 130-133

Yukio Lippit, "An Interview with Japanese Painting Collectors Robert and Betsy Feinberg", Orientations, Orientations Magazine (Hong Kong, January/February 2020), vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 34-43, p. 37, fig. 4

Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit, Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), p. 12, fig. 1

Rachel Saunders, ed., Catalogue of the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, brochure, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, 2021), pp. 31-32, cat. 17

Exhibition History

Celebrated Four Seasons: An Aspect of Japanese Paintings from the 16th to 19th Centuries, Chiba City Museum of Art, Chiba, 04/27/1996 - 06/09/1998

Autumn Colors: Japanese Paintings from the Edo Period, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, 09/27/2008 - 11/30/2008

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 05/21/2013 - 07/15/2013; Miho Museum, 07/20/2013 - 08/18/2013; Tottori Prefectural Museum, 10/05/2013 - 11/10/2013

32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 06/04/2015 - 11/29/2015

Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/14/2020 - 06/06/2021

Subjects and Contexts

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