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Red Sea Bream (Tai) on Bamboo Leaves
18th century

Ogawa Ritsuo 1663-1747)
Edo period

Color on silk
H: 29.9 W: 0.0 cm
Japan

Gift of Charles Lang Freer F1897.30

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The Japanese word tai (sea bream) is also an element of the word medetai, which means auspicious or fortunate. Tai is prized for its flavor and as a food signifying good fortune for the New Year, weddings, and other celebrations. Here, the painter Ogawa Ritsuo, who was skilled in the decoration of lacquer, presented the tai on a bed of bamboo, a plant that symbolizes longevity. The tai exhibits meticulous details and unusual coloration in its scales. Ritsuo’s inclusion of gold behind the silk creates unusual iridescent effects that utilize the technical knowledge and precision he developed from his experience in maki-e, the practice of applying metal powders and gold leaf to lacquerware for decoration. According to the inscription to the right, Ritsuo painted this intriguing still life in his seventy-sixth year.