Mochizuki Gyokkei 望月玉渓 (1874-1938)

Hotei Looking at the Moon

Inv. Nr. #18.016
Date Late Meiji, early Taishō period
Material Ink and colors on silk
Dimensions Mounting 120 x 64 cm; Painting 27,6 x 48,5 cm

Comes with inscribed wooden box, with authentication by his son Mochizuki Gyokusei.

Price: EUR 3,500

Mochizuki Gyokkei, the fifth heir of the Gyokusen painting tradition (also known as the Kyōto school), excelled not only in the naturalistic depiction of flowers and animals, but also in figure painting, as this fine example shows. In an unusual horizontal composition that creates a rather intimate atmosphere, Gyokkei depicted the famous, semi-legendary Zen monk Hotei pointing at the moon. The portly monk is shown carrying a large sack in his left hand, while the finger of his right hand points to the rising moon. The abbreviated scene and the suggestive use of empty space are associated with medieval Zen paintings. Gyokkei followed this tradition, but gave it a new meaning when his Hotei shows not something abstract above him, but something closer to earth on the horizon. The moon, often seen as a symbol of enlightenment, seems here not to be something far away, but something within everyone's reach.


Mochizuki Gyokkei has succeeded his father Mochizuki Gyokusen 望月玉泉 (1834-1913), an official painter of the imperial palace. From him, Gyokkei inherited his precise brushwork through his training in the fifth-generation family style, which goes back to his great-grandfather Mochizuki Gyokusen (1692–1755), who founded the family studio that combined elements of Chinese painting of the Kishi school with influences from Shen Nanping and Japanese painting of the Maruyama-Shijō school as well as Western painting techniques.

The painting is signed Mochi Gyokkei 望玉渓, and there is an interesting coincidence: the first character of his name alone stands for the full moon, the 15th day of the Japanese lunar calendar. The red seal reads Gyokkei. The old original wooden box is marked by Gyokkei on the outside: Hotei shōgetsu zu 布袋賞月圖 ('Painting of Hotei looking at the moon'). On the inside of the box is an inscription and authentication by his son, the sixth heir to the Gyokusen tradition, Mochizuki Gyokusei (1900-1951), dated 1950.


See other works by Gyokkei here.