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Monkey in a persimmon tree

Ohara Shōson (Koson)

Artwork Details

Monkey in a persimmon tree
Ohara Shōson (Koson)
Color woodblock print on paper
10 11/16 in x 9 1/2 in (27.2 cm x 24.2 cm)
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund

On Display

Not currently on display


Ohara Shōson
Japan, ca. 1877–1945
Monkey in a Persimmon Tree
Shōwa period (1926–89)
Color woodblock print on paper
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art
Collection Fund, 1982/1.204

Ohara Shōson was known for his bird-and-flower paintings and
his print designs. This print portrays a monkey attempting to
seize a ripe persimmon from a tree. The subject is inspired by
a popular folk tale about a monkey who attempts to trick a crab
into exchanging its delectable rice ball for a persimmon seed. The
monkey eats all the ripe persimmons from a tree and throws a hard
one at the crab, killing it. The crab’s son then takes revenge with
the help of his friends. By depicting the monkey’s greed, Shōson
conveys the Buddhist principle of cause and effect, whereby good
deeds result in favorable outcomes and bad deeds in negative
outcomes. With this meticulous rendition of nature, he successfully
humanizes the monkey to offer a persuasive moral lesson.

Summer 2023 Gallery Rotation

Vibrant colors such as these are typical of Ohara Shôson’s work after the great Kantô earthquake of 1923. Increased economic pressures resulting from the disaster forced many printmakers to seek markets outside the domestic clientele. Since Japanese woodblock prints remained attractive to foreigners, Shôson may have adopted this more colorful palette to appeal to Western tastes.
The wasp, monkey, and persimmons in this scene recall the Japanese folktale of Monkey and Crab. In the story, a mother crab met a monkey, who persuaded her to trade her rice ball for a persimmon seed. The monkey devoured the rice ball, while the crab planted and nurtured the seed. It grew into a fruitful tree, and the crab asked the monkey to harvest and share the fruit. Greedily, the monkey throws a hard persimmon at the crab below, crushing her. Enlisting the aid of outside help including a wasp, the crab's children seek revenge.
(Japanese Gallery Rotation, Spring 2009)

Subject Matter:

Monkey and wasp in a persimmon tree

Physical Description:

Boldly colored monkey in a persimmon tree. A wasp hovers near its nest hanging from a branch.

Usage Rights:

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