Moon in Musashi Plain

 
Nationality
Japanese
Creation date
Period
Edo
Materials
color and gold on paper
Dimensions
66 3/4 x 24 1/2 in. (each panel)
Credit line
Mary V. Black Art Endowment Fund
Accession number
2000.1
Collection
Not Currently On View

武蔵野図

The melancholy of an autumnal pastoral scene, with its ordinary elements such as grasses, chrysanthemums, and somber moon, becomes an epic ode to transience in these golden panels. Among the green blades of grass are others in gold, which can only be seen from certain angles. The tarnished silver disk of a full moon provides a dramatic contrast to the detailed flowers and lithe, elegant grasses.

Immortalized in the 10th-century Tales of Ise, the wild Musashi Plain evoked desolation tinged with the bitter-sweetness of passionate, but doomed, lovers.

Purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2000.
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

The faint melancholy of an autumn pastoral scene, with its ordinary elements such as grasses, chrysanthemums, and somber moon, becomes an epic ode to transience in these golden panels. From a dark green foreground, blooms and grass plumes rise on leafy stems to meet gilded clouds at the upper edge. A common chrysanthemum, depicted over and over again in royal hues, gathers power. Gold on gold, silhouetted against bright and dark swaths, creates a visual dynamic of resplendence and subtlety. A full moon, its silver tarnished over the centuries, imparts a diffuse, timeless loneliness to the panorama.

Characteristic of the late Momoyama and early Edo period, these screens, which might have adorned the home of a wealthy merchant, derive their emotional impact from simple forms, such as the graceful bend of a blade of grass rendered in fine brushwork, that are repeated on a grand scale. The subject is the Musashi Plain, immortalized in the 10th-century Japanese literary classic Tales of Ise as a poignant, desolate landscape where forbidden lovers flee, or are banished-a place of bittersweetness.

In fields of bush clover and hay-scent grass
the autumn moon takes refuge.
The cricket's song is gold.

-Margaret Gibson, from "Autumn Grasses," 2003