The shape of the circle repeats four times in this painting. It appears in the plump body of Hotei, his head, his large white sack, and the overall shape of the fan.
Hotei (known in Chinese as Putai) is the fond nickname for a tenth-century Chinese monk named Qici, who attained legendary status as an exemplar of Zen ideals. Hotei is recognizable by his large belly and his equally enormous alms bag, which he carried everywhere. His very name is a pun: Hotei literally means “cloth sack”—and by extension, “glutton.”
Hotei became a favorite subject for Zen monk-painters in China and Japan as early as the thirteenth century. Artists delighted in the possibilities for visual punning, drawing both Hotei’s belly and his sack as enormous circles. An empty circle—a perfect geometric shape without beginning or end—is used in Zen as an abstract symbol representing the erasure of opposites, a fundamental Buddhist teaching.
A monochrome print depicting two standing women and a reclining man in a room. The taller woman, a courtesan, wears an elaborate kimono of butterfly design and under-kimono of geometric patterns; her hair is tied on the back, wearing tortoise shell comb and hairpin. She is holding skirts of kimono and under-kimono with her right hand and is hiding her left hand under the kimono. The second woman, an attendant, is standing behind the courtesan, holding a doll of a boy and her face turning away. She wears a plain kimono with pine tree design and obi (sash) with striped patterns. The man is reclining and looking toward the courtesan. They seem to engage in conversation. The man wears kimono with design of coins and short jacket with plaid patterns. His hair is shaved on top and tied on the back. There is a folded screen behind him, depicting a plum tree by river. In front of him, there are a sake pitcher, sake cup and its stand, and a bowl with food accompanied by a tray and chopsticks. There is a title of the print in cartouche at upper right.
The cartouche at upper right identifies the scene as an illustration of the first chapter of the Tale of Genji, a court romance written in the early eleventh century by Murasaki Shikibu (In fact, this print is one of a series, with 54 scenes for each chapter in the novel.) The core moment in the chapter is when the child Genji is introduced to a seer, who forecasts his future. Here, in a playful modernization of that august topic, we appear to witness the first encounter of a courtesan and her customer. The boy doll in the attndant's hands may refer to child Genji.
A colored image depicting a woman lounging in her chambers. She wears a kimono of red and blue with an artistic stylized pattern. Outside is a cherry tree blooming and the woman's young attendant in a grey kimono.
An elegantly-dressed courtesan reclining in her chambers and turning her head to listen as her attendant is leaning over the veranda to speak to her. The courtesan is comparible to the cherry tree outside her quarters, both being at the height of their beauty.
M. Bachelier is shown seated at a desk dressed in a high powdered wig and sumptous gold-embroidered velvet coat and waistcoat. Behind the figure is a rich cloth, pulled back to reveal columns. On the elaborately carved desk are papers and a writing set. M. Bachelier extends his left hand towards the viewer, suggesting that we have interepted him while writing at his des. The painting's coloring consists of rich burgundy red, green, tan and gold.
Pierre Bachelier directed the collection of taxes in the city of Lyon, France. Oudry's portrait recalls the official "portrait d'apparat" of his teacher, Nicolas de Largillière, that surrounds the sitter with emblems of his rank and profession.
This black chalk drawing on gray-blue prepared laid paper is vertically oriented. The piece is a still life of the contents of a pantry portrayed within a lightly indicated arched niche. A rabbit and a fowl hang upside-down from a string, dominating the composition. Below them are, from left to right, two vessels, a prepared fowl, long root vegetables, and a wicker basket.
Jean-Baptiste Oudry began as a portrait painter, but gained great success as a painter of animals, hunt and still life subjects. In the traditional manner, he created preparatory drawings to design a painting composition. In this still life drawing, "The Pantry," he arranges the fresh game so that it hangs above the prepared meat and other meal ingredients. In still lifes such as this, the artist frequently creates an intricate compositionby carefully arranging the elements. Here, Oudry deftly plays on the notion of pairs: two suspended game, a pair of bottles to the left, the pair of long-stemmed vegetables to the right; the basket, fowl, and leg of game are used to knot the pairs together compositionally. J-B-S. Chardin, later in the 18th c. will become the consumate master of this type of still life.