Bird on Branch Watching Spider, Watanabe Seitei
Ink and color on silk; roughly 14 x 10 inches (36 x 26 cm); in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use the Download or Enlarge links under the image on their site.
Even though the color in the image looks much like watercolor, when the materials listing for Japanese paintings on silk describe the paint component as simply “color” or “colors”, it usually indicates a paint using pigments similar to European or American watercolor paints, but with animal hide glue as a binder. This is a medium that would be called “distemper” in European painting, as opposed to gum arabic based watercolor and gouache.
The application of color in Seitei’s beautiful rendering is no less delicate and subtle that what could be achieved with watercolor, and the combination of that and his beautifully finessed application of ink is simply a marvel.
I was struck by how the leaves in the composition look so much like feathers, as well as the wonderful contrast between the detailed representation of the bird and spider, and the rough sumi-e approach given to the branches.