In this dramatic scene in the depth of winter, a monkey cowers with its young in a rock crevice, hiding from a predatory eagle which has just alighted above. On the contours of the rocks, areas of the paper have been left unpainted to indicate the covering of snow, which is rendered with white pigment in the finished painting.
This is a copy of the full-size preparatory drawing for an unusually large hanging scroll painting. The finished work was the central scroll in a set of three that was presented to the Empress Dowager Shōken in December 1896. An eagle bearing down on a monkey was a visual representation of the saying, "the eagle who doesn't look up" (in Japanese, ue minu washi), indicating a creature without predators, superior in strength. This message of power and dominance was eminently suitable to promote an image of the Japanese imperial household as the supreme authority in the land.
The two other scrolls in the set depicted pheasant and bamboo at right and geese and reeds at left. The set of three massive scrolls were hung in the new Western-style palace, and must have brought the power and majesty of nature into the ceremonial chambers. The underlying message would be that force ensures peace and prosperity.
Though well disguised, a separate piece of paper has been pasted on in the area of the monkeys and the eagle's wing tip, suggesting the artist was not satisfied with his first attempt. From this, we can surmise it was Ishibashi Kazunori who created the copy.