Affe mit Mond | Kanō Tokinobu 狩野時信 | 1642-1678

Monkey with Moon | Kanō Tokinobu 狩野時信 | 1642-1678

Kanō Tokinobu was the eldest son of Kanō Yasunobu and thus belonged to the inner circle of the all-powerful Kanō school of the 17th century. He became head of the Nakabashi studio in the 2nd generation. Nothing in his few remaining works speaks against the fact that he could have become one of the great Kanō masters. But his death at the age of 37 ended his promising career.

The motif of the monkey has been dealt with in an exemplary manner in Chinese painting. Gibbon paintings in Japan are at least indirectly related to Muqi (see picture on the left of Muqi 1210-1269). The subject of the monkey reaching for the reflected moon is then associated with the sliding door painting by Hasegawa Tōhaku in the Daitokuji Temple in Kyoto (see picture on the right) and is a landmark in Japanese art.

The philosophical theme that humans do not recognize the truth, but believe that the reflection in a mirror is the truth, is a topos that has been familiar in the West since Plato's allegory of the cave. Tokinobu certainly knew a few models, but he found his own concise formulation: the monkey sits squatly on a tree and stretches his extra-long arm down to the pond where the full moon is reflected. He does not look down, but looks at the viewer, as if he wanted to think with him about this lunar phenomenon. It is also striking that the arm is hanging down rather than really outstretched. This means that the gripping position is not very convincing. The position of the fingers in the other hand is also puzzling. It looks as if the monkey wanted to point to something with his index finger. So does this picture, with such details, not have its own mysterious statement about the human being, who is inclined to mistake reflection for substance.

Dimensions: 44cm x 173cm | Material: Paper

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