The Confucian scholar, painter and writer Minagawa Kien, who inscribed this painting, was a close friend of Rosetsu. Once, collaborating on a handscroll with bamboo painted by the Zen monk So Doi, Rosetsu added flora and fauna. Kien inscribed the scroll, saying, “Each time Rosetsu produced a motif, he would go to the monk’s residence and request a drink, altogether at least forty or fifty, before completing the scroll.”
Kien and Rosetsu supposedly gathered people at a temple in the Gion precinct, where Rosetsu would paint and Kien would add the inscriptions. Buyers came from all over to purchase the works, and the two artists had money to spend on drinking and brothels. Kien sponsored so-called “Exhibitions of New Calligraphy and Painting” twice a year, featuring several hundred works by Kyoto artists competing for notice. Rosetsu stood out at these events, thanks to his bizarre submissions, including a painting of five hundred figures on a paper scroll measuring only three centimeters.
In the early twentieth century, the art historian Aimi Kou described Rosetsu as follows: “Mentally and physically dynamic in every respect and with a life full of drama, he is the kind of person who would make enough material for a one-act play at the Imperial Theater.” (Translated by Aaron Rio in Lineage of Eccentrics: Matabei to Kuniyoshi by Nobuo Tsuji [Kaikai Kiki Co., Ltd., 2012].)