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This resplendent peacock regards the fan of his iridescent tail feathers, so profuse they obscure the moss-studded rocks and luxuriant peonies behind. Gold is used to frame the “eyes” of each of the tail feathers, and delicate gold strands are suspended from the feather shafts. Animated by shifting light conditions, these shimmering surfaces not only draw attention to the lavishness of the materials, but also suggest the dignified bird’s graceful movement. Peacocks are not native to Japan but were imported during the Edo period as exotic curiosities. Ōkyo’s portrayal, realized with Western-style anatomical precision combined with conventional elements of polychrome Chinese bird-and-flower painting, testifies to his great achievement: the synthesis of different painting techniques and aesthetic traditions into a unified approach.

Details

  • Title: Peacock and Peonies
  • Creator: Maruyama Ōkyo
  • Creator Lifespan: 1733–1795
  • Date Created: Edo period, 1768
  • Credit Line: Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
  • External Link: Harvard Art Museums
  • Medium: Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold on silk

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