Long-armed Monkey

  • Momoyama period
  • 16c
  • Hanging scroll, ink on paper
  • H-103.5 W-46.3
Catalogue Entry

This work captures a single moment in the life of a monkey clinging to a branch in the midst of a misty forest. The empty expanse below conveys a sense of the tree's height, and the monkey's sharp gaze and the harsh bend of the branch give the painting a sense of tension. While this painting has traditionally been attributed to Muxi's hand, the relatively even quality of the composition and the manner in which the fur is painted would seem to indicate the possibility that the work was created by a Japanese painter after his impressions of Muxi's monkey paintings.

Muxi was a Zen monk painter active at the end of the Song dynasty and beginning of the Yuan dynasty in China (latter half of the 13th century). He was born in Shu (Shuzhuan province) and spent the majority of his life in Zhejiang province, where he is known to have painted ink paintings depicting a wide variety of subjects. Muxi had an enormous effect on Muromachi and later Japanese ink painting, and Japanese painters created a large number of works imitating his painting style. Muxi's most famous work is his Avalokitesvara with Monkeys and Cranes (National Treasure, Daitokuji, Kyoto).