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: Rooster, Hen, and Chicks

Rooster, Hen, and Chicks

Hanging scroll
Artist: Kishi Ganku (1749-1838)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1788
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 109.6 x 48.2 cm (43 1/8 x 19 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. James Freeman
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
The subject of the rooster in Chinese and Japanese painting has traditionally implied serious content. Chinese Zen adepts likened the roosters alert and attentive anticipation of the dawn to the attitude of a devoted practitioners eager anticipation of enlightenment; the roosters crow was emblematic of the moment of satori (enlightenment). The rooster also was thought to embody the Five Virtues: martial spirit, literary accomplishment, loyalty, courage and virtue. The 18th century in particular witnessed a number of Japanese painters issuing quite spectacular renderings of these creatures. Most were complex studies in color and pattern; some were presented in ink monochrome. The painter Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800) was the acknowledged master of the form. This scene of barnyard fowl painted by Kishi Ganku offers the artists characteristically jaded view of an icon held in high esteem. Gakus interpretation is of an elongated and threatening creature. The roosters neck feathering, in particular, is luxuriously rendered to the point of the surreal. The most telling episode in the composition is the feeding process; a hen passes a dragonfly to a ravenous chick. The dragonflys eyes imply horror and this brilliant, minuscule touch conveys Gankus skill at suggesting the darker side of the ostentatiously regal.
Provenance information is currently unavailable
On View Location
Currently not on view
Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, rooster
Collection(s) Area
Japanese Art
Web Resource(s)
Google Cultural Institute

Rights Statement
Copyright with museum

As renovation work continues in the Freer Gallery, the Sackler Gallery also will close on July 10, 2017. This museum-wide closure will allow us to completely reinstall our exhibitions and revitalize features to improve your visit. Both spaces will reopen on October 14, 2017, when we will welcome the public back to the Freer|Sackler: two galleries, one destination. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.