Important Cultural PropertyOld Monkey

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  • By Takamura Kōun
  • 1 piece
  • Wood
  • H 108.5, W 103.5, D 76.0
  • Meiji 26 (1893)
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • C-232

This is a sculpture of a monkey that sits on a rock with its left knee drawn up and looks at the upper right with a fixed gaze. It holds a feather of an eagle in its left hand and other feathers are scattered around it. Probably, this monkey has been fighting against an eagle. At the end of its gaze, space extends boundlessly, evoking a feeling of expansiveness among the viewers. This image successfully expresses the passage of time, expanse of space, past activity and current inactivity through the instantaneous posture of the monkey.
Koun Takamura, the creator of this image, is one of the representative woodcraftsmen of the modern age, who lived through the unquiet days from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period. He is also known as the father of Kotaro Takamura, a renowned sculptor and poet. When he was about to start working on this sculpture, he lost his beloved oldest daughter Sakuko, who was 16 years old. Koun's disappointment and grief were so deep that he could not continue his work for a while. However, he gradually regained energy through the creative work of sculpting. The power of this old monkey may reflect his deep grief and verve to overcome that grief. This was completed in 1893 and won the Outstanding Performance Award at the World Exposition in Chicago.