delicate orchid fronds with reed-like flowers and stylized rock at LL

Orchids, Bamboo, and Brambles [left of a pair], late 14th-early 15th century

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Epidendrum is a wild variety of orchid that grows in East Asia, where it is admired for its sweet fragrance and ability to grow even in low-quality soil. For this reason, orchids are said to be like ideal gentlemen, whose scholarly pursuits stand them in good stead even when the going is rough. In this painting, two clumps of fragrant orchids emerge from behind small boulders in the lower corner of each scroll. The orchids’ leaves compete with shoots of bamboo and brambles before breaking free, ribboning up and away across the surface of the paper.

Orchids and rocks were the favorite painting subject of Gyokuen Bonpō, an elite, highly influential Zen monk who painted as an avocation. Steeped in Chinese painting and poetry, Bonpō was also a renowned calligrapher and composer of Chinese verse.

Orchids, Bamboo, and Brambles [left of a pair]
Artist Life
1348 - c. 1420
Accession Number
Catalogue Raisonne
Murase, Art through a Lifetime, no. 123
Curator Approved

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delicate orchid fronds with reed-like flowers and stylized rock at LL