Ōtagaki Rengetsu 大田垣蓮月 (1791-1875)

Eggplant Painting & Poem

Inv. Nr. #21.010
Date Late Edo period, late 1850s
Material Ink on paper
Dimensions H 121,5 (33,0) x W 46,0 (43,0) cm

Comes with new mounting and fitted wooden box.

Price on request


In this delicate and minimalist artwork, the famous nun-artist and poet Ōtagaki Rengetsu presents one of her most famous poems: the so-called eggplant poem. Despite her tragic personal life, with the loss of two husbands and all her children, the work exemplifies the subtle humor that Rengetsu was able to maintain for herself as a Buddhist nun. In her poem, she links the image of two ripe eggplants to the Buddhist concept of a fulfilled and happy life. The poetic inscription, written in her fluid and elegant handwriting, reads:


To rise in the world

and achieve

what one desires,

therefore, eggplants are indeed

a fortunate example.








Next to the poem, Rengetsu painted two Japanese eggplants in ink wash. The vegetables suggest the double meaning of the word "nasu" in the poem. Written only in phonetic hiragana syllables, the word could be understood as 'eggplant' (茄子 or 茄) or in its sense as a verb 'to achieve' or 'to accomplish' (なす or 成す).

Various versions of this painting and a discussion of the poem by Chiaki Ajioka have been published in: Black Robe, White Mist. Art of the Japanese Buddhist Nun Rengetsu, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Australia (2007).

The hanging scroll has recently been professionally remounted and is presented in perfect mint condition with a matching wooden storage box. The color of the rich fabric perfectly resembles the color of ripe eggplants.