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An image of Calligraphy: (poem) by Ôtagaki RENGETSU


(Japan 1791 – 1875)

Calligraphy: (poem)
Place of origin
Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615 - 1868 → Japan
Meiji period 1868 - 1912 → Japan
19th century
Media category
Materials used
hanging scroll; ink on paper

29.4 x 41.0 cm image; 114.8 x 50.0 x 56.5 cm scroll

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased 1994
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

From an early age Rengetsu showed talents for poetry and swordsmanship. She married young, but as her husband died in 1823, and her four children also died at young ages, she entered the Buddhist priesthood and adopted the name Rengetsu, meaning Lotus Moon. She dedicated the rest of her life to writing poetry and making pottery, known as Rengetsu ware. This poem reads:

'The evening is fragrant with plum blossoms
Oh, this fragrance!
It penetrates the black sleeves of my nun's habit
Even though I have renounced the world,
I enjoy dressing myself in this aromatic midnight scent.'

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 282.

Bibliography (4)

Melanie Eastburn, Lucie Folan and Robin Maxwell, Black robe white mist: art of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu, Australia, 2007, 24 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 282 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Art of the Brush - Chinese & Japanese painting calligraphy, Sydney, 1995, 3 (illus.), 17.

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The aesthetic of transience', Sydney, 2003, 201 (colour illus.).

Exhibition history (2)

Art of the brush, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Sep 1995–12 Nov 1995

Black Robe, White Mist Otagaki Rengetsu, National Gallery of Australia, Parkes, 08 Sep 2007–27 Jan 2008