This work is a painting of Jujube dates and a pear (Japanese Aka-nashi, Pyrus pyrifolia), different from varieties recognized in the west. Matsumura Keibun's calligraphic brushwork draws out the inner...
This work is a painting of Jujube dates and a pear (Japanese Aka-nashi, Pyrus pyrifolia), different from varieties recognized in the west. Matsumura Keibun's calligraphic brushwork draws out the inner essence of each fruit, suggesting in them variety and dignified grace. But beneath the beauty of what appears as an elegant still life, a deeper complexity is buried.
In Japanese, Jujube dates are called Natsume. Natsume is also the name given to a lacquered wooden container of powdered thin tea (matcha) used during tea events. It is said that the tea caddy is called Natsume because its smooth, rounded shape resembles that of an unripe date. There is another type of tea caddy called chaire, made to contain powdered matcha for thick tea. Chaire has several shapes, one of which is called Bunrin chaire. Its rounded shape and strong shoulders resembles that of an apple or pear.
The date and pear painted in the work can refer to the actual fruits or allude to the two kinds of tea caddies, Natsume and Bunrin chaire. Thus, the still life may be appreciated on several symbolic and aesthetic levels. Suppose you are invited to a tea event. Upon arrival, you notice this work. First, the essence of the fruit quietly greets you, pleasing your eyes and exciting your palette. Connecting with the work deeper, the subtle suggestion of tea utensils further builds your anticipation of the tea event, preparing you to consider and enjoy the host's selection of Natsume and chaire for the day. Through refined aesthetic effect, the scroll slowly reveals itself as a guiding element of the event both visually and intellectually.
About the Artist
Matsumura Keibun was the brother and pupil of Matsumura Goshun (1752 – 1811), and the pupil of Maruyama Okyo (1733 – 1795). While Goshun and Okyo are credited with the founding of the Maruyama-Shijo style, Keibun brought it to the point of maturity as a school of painting. While his poetic depiction of simple natural forms in ink on paper or silk is superb, it is the intensity and variation of ink found in each of his brushstrokes that is truly exceptional.