Mochizuki Gyokkei, the fifth heir of the Gyokusen painting tradition (also just known as 'Kyoto school') did not only excel in the natural rendition of flowers and animals, but in figure paintig as well - as this fine example shows. In an unusal horizontal composition that generates a quite intimate atmosphere, Gyokkei rendered the famous half-legendary Zen monk Hotei pointing at the moon. The portly monk is shown carrying a large cloth bag in his left hand while pointing the finger of his right hand towards the rising moon. The abbreviated scene and suggestive use of empty space is associated with Zen monk painters of medieval times. Gyokkei followed in this tradition, however, gave it a new meaning when his Hotei is not showing something abstract above him but more near to earth at the horizon. The moon, which is often understood at the symbol of enlightenment, seems here not to be something far away, but as something that seems in reach for every men.
The painting is another fine example of Gyokkei's accurate brushwork which he inheretd by the training through his father Mochizuki Gyokusen (1834-1913) in the Gyokusen familiy style tracing back to his great-grandfather Mochizuki Gyokusen (1692–1755). The old familiy studio combined elements of Chinese painting under influences by Shen Nanping as well as Japanese painting with influences by western traditions.
The painting is signed Mochi Gyokkei 望玉渓, and there is an interesting coincidence to be noted here: the first character of his name alone stands for the full moon, the 15th day of the Japanese lunar calendar. Red seal reads Gyokkei. The old original wooden box is inscibed on the outside by Gyokkei: Hotei shôgetsu zu 布袋賞月圖 ('Painting of Hotei Viewing the Moon'). The inside of the box bears an insciption and authentification by his son, the sixth heir of the Gyokusen tradition Mochizuki Gyokusei (1900-1951), dated to the year 1950.