The Parrot King

Nagasawa RosetsuEdo period, c. 1787–95

Harvard Art Museums

Harvard Art Museums
Cambridge, United States

Rosetsu, like his teacher Maruyama Ōkyo (1733–1795), painted an enormous range of subjects for a variety of patrons. This painting showcases his ability to meld observation of the natural world and painterly convention with characteristic panache. Here, a diverse flock of birds, including bush warblers, java sparrows, and mynahs, chatters on the lower branches while a single scarlet parakeet perches disinterestedly above. The composition adapts a Chinese painting theme known as “one hundred birds,” paying witty homage to the phoenix that typically appears by substituting the mythical bird with a highly realistic depiction of a parakeet. In the 18th century, parakeets were imported to Japan from Southeast Asia as exotic curiosities, and both Rosetsu and Ōkyo painted them from life.


  • Title: The Parrot King
  • Creator: Nagasawa Rosetsu
  • Creator Lifespan: 1754–1799
  • Date Created: Edo period, c. 1787–95
  • Credit Line: Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
  • External Link: Harvard Art Museums
  • Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk

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