This lightly brushed image of a fox garbed as a Buddhist nun acquires a clever, perhaps personal dimension in the poem that the nun Rengetsu inscribed in her much-admired script. The delicate vivacity of its classic style well suits her vision of a long-standing superstition holding that foxes transform themselves into human form to bewitch the unwary, particularly at twilight. 

 

Tricking people
as is his nature
at twilight in these fields of Sagano...
is he displaying his tail
as if it were a plume of silver grass?

 

Hito hakaru
Sagano* no hara no
yuumagure
ono ga obana* ya
hana to misu ran.

 

*There is a play of word and image. The word obana, written with characters meaning "tail-flower," is classic poetic diction for autumn plumes of susuki, the tall grasses painted here to signify Sagano, a place name often used in poetry as a pun on saga, "one's nature." (Source The MET)

 

Compare to a similar painting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

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Otagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875)

Ink and color on paper, dated 1867

30 x 45.9 cm (11 3/4 x 18 in.)

Mounting 123 x 52 cm (48 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.)
Wooden box

Otagaki Rengetsu | Painting

SKU: R1724
$6,820.00Price
Bachmann Eckenstein