(from right to left) 1st of 4, overall with mounting Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Here Gyokusen charts the cyclical course of the moon, rhythmically waxing and waning through the seasonal skies in four hanging scrolls. Although his palette of bruised ink washes and golden mists foregrounds the moon’s long-established poetic symbolism, the specificity of the lunar forms—two full and two waning gibbous moons—reflects a more empirical approach. The silk mountings are painted with traditional seasonal emblems to locate the otherwise temporally ambiguous subject in particular times of year. Progressing right to left, spring is marked with cherry blossoms, summer with a cuckoo, autumn by returning geese, and winter with falling snow.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Mochizuki Gyokusen, Japanese (1834 - 1913)
Moons of the Four Seasons
Work Type
hanging scroll, painting
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Meiji period, 1868-1912
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3620, University Study Gallery
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Physical Descriptions
Set of four hanging scrolls; ink, light color, gold, and silver on silk
each scroll mounting, including roller ends and suspension cord: H. 189 × W. 49.5 cm (74 7/16 × 19 1/2 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: painting "Spring": Nanajū roku Okina Gyokusen tsukuru
  • inscription: painting "Winter": Meiji yonjū yonen Gyokusen tsukuru
  • seal: painting "Spring": Tamaki Shigemine
  • seal: painting "Spring": Gyokusen
  • seal: painting "Summer": Ichi
  • seal: painting "Summer": Gyokusen
  • seal: painting "Autumn": Ichi
  • seal: painting "Autumn": Gyokuen
  • seal: painting "Winter": Tamaki Shigemine
  • seal: painting "Winter": Gyokusen
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Scroll a: Spring. Full moon seen through a misty night sky. The mount illustrates a budding willow tree in moonlight. The thin textile bands (ichimonji) are actually cherry blossoms painted in silver and gold.
Scroll b: Summer. A three-quarter moon in summer sky. The mount shows a small cuckoo (hototogisu) flying in the clouds over a stream. The painted ichimonji are of summer flowers.
Scroll c: Autumn. A full clear harvest moon rises over the autumn grasses shown in the mount. Ichimonji illustrate the autumnal theme of geese flying over reeds.
Scroll d: Winter. A three-quarter moon is depicted in a stormy sky. On the mount, light snow falls on a fallow rice field. Ichimonji reflect the winter theme in the choice of pine needles and pine cones.
Publication History

Musée Cernuschi, Le Japon au fil des saisons: Collection Robert et Betsy Feinberg, exh. cat., Paris-Musées (Paris, 2014), pp. 140-143

Emma Giuliani, Quatre saisons au Japon: Un livre anime, Musée Cernuschi (Paris, 2014)

Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit, Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), p. 90, fig. 79

Exhibition History

Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/14/2020 - 07/18/2021

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu