White Raven, with an endorsement from Minagawa Kien

By Maruyama Ōkyo
Donated by Homma Yūsuke

This painting depicts a white raven (brown in real life) caught by a hunter on the imperial estates of Myōho-in Temple, Kyoto, at the end of November 1786. To the right of the image is a description of the painting’s origins by Minagawa Kien, a renowned Confucian scholar and close friend of Ōkyo.

The discovery of the raven was reported to the court by Imperial Prince Shin-ninhō (1768–1805) who was a monk at Myōho-in Temple. On 8 December of the same year, the Emperor Kōkaku performed an imperial inspection of the raven. On 7 January 1776, the prince — who had been studying painting under Ōkyo — sent a messenger to his teacher, ordering him to create a painting of the white raven. However, it seems that Ōkyo was out attending to another matter, so his son Maruyama Ōzui and student Yamamoto Shurei went in his stead to the hunter’s house to draw the raven. On 13 January, the raven was released in the place where it had been captured, and it was forbidden to capture the raven again.

While it is not known whether Ōkyo was able to see the raven with his own eyes, this work is unusual in that it depicts a specific and identifiable raven.