Jul 3, 2014

Mandarin Ducks and Flowering Plants

Mandarin Ducks and Flowering Plants

early or mid-1830s

Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川 広重

(Japanese, 1797–1858)

Color woodblock print

Overall: 38.2 x 17.1 cm (15 1/16 x 6 3/4 in.)

The Kelvin Smith Collection, given by Mrs. Kelvin Smith 1985.314



In Asian painting, ducks are usually shown in pairs because a male and female mate for life. They symbolize fidelity and tranquility. The presence of another duck is suggested here by the gesture of the bird's head. Notice the variety of brushstrokes and ink tones used to depict the duck's plumage.

The bird and flower genre is a popular theme in the paintings and prints of the Kelvin Smith Collection. Kachoga, or bird and flower pictures, became popular among collectors in Japan during the 19th century, due in large part to Hiroshige. Although better known for his landscape prints, Hiroshige made several exceptional prints of birds, plants, and animals that reveal his keen observation of nature.

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