Jinenjyo Japanese mountain yam



Japanese mountain yam
Scroll, ink on paper, mounting on silk
Ike no Taiga (1723-1776)
Edo period, 18th century
H. 39.4 in (100cm) – W. 10.2 in (26cm)
H. 71.6 in (182cm) – W. 14.2 in (36cm)

Ike no Taiga (池 大雅) was one of the most famous painters of the Bunjin-ga school of Japanese literati painting, which was inspired by Chinese literati painting. It is said that he perfected the Bunjin-ga genre with together Yosa Buson. He was born into a family of farmers in northern Kyoto. Already in his childhood, he excelled in the art of calligraphy, and assiduously frequented the monks of the Zen temple of Manpuku-ji in Kyoto to hone his abilities. He then became a professional painter. In 1748, he left Kyoto and spent some time in Edo (now Tokyo), where he became famous for his virtuosic finger painting. Also during his stay in Edo, he had the opportunity to see Western paintings, which greatly impressed him. In 1751, he met Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1769), the famous monk and Zen painter. This meeting undoubtedly had an influence on his style. Many of his works have been classified as National Treasures in Japan.

This painting depicts a Japanese mountain yam (Dioscorea japonica) called jinenjyo, which literally means “wild yam”. During the harvest time in autumn, people went to the mountains to dig up and collect the yams for eating. Ike no Taiga painted the body of this yam with one stroke. The difference in the thickness of the ink indicates that the stroke was executed from top to bottom. Its line is natural and relaxed. In spite of the fact that they appear at first glance to have been carelessly executed, the fibrous roots were in fact painted with utmost care. The yam occupies nearly the full space of the paper. The composition is striking, and the painting makes a humorous impression.