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Poems from the Shinkokin wakashū

Hon'ami Kōetsu, Japanese, 1558 - 1637

Geography:
Made in Japan, Asia

Period:
Edo Period (1615-1868)

Date:
Early 17th century

Medium:
Ink, gold, and silver on paper; mounted as a handscroll

Dimensions:
13 5/16 x 326 3/4 inches (33.8 x 830 cm) Mount: 14 1/8 x 340 3/8 inches (35.8 x 864.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:
1999-39-1

Credit Line:
125th Anniversary Acquisition. Purchased with funds contributed by the members of the Committee on East Asian Art, 1999

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Label:
In this scroll Koetsu brushed twelve love poems over gold and silver woodblock-printed designs of ivy, mehishiba (a type of crabgrass), and wisteria. Butterflies were printed in gold and silver in random patterns over the length of the reverse of the scroll. This handscroll was painstakingly restored and remounted in the 1980s because of fire damage that it suffered.

   Out on Udo Beach
Do you fancy you'll beach me
   For good and all?
Watch the waves come rolling in:
Ceaseless the nights I desire!
Shinkokin wakashü 1051
Author unknown

    Down the Eastern Road,
Way out at the end you find
    Hitachi sashes
Buckling sweethearts at the fair-
And here all I beg is a slipknot!
Shinkokin wakashü 1052
Author unknown

    A muddy inlet-
Clearly it will be difficult
    To settle on me;
Still, I hope dark waters show
Some glimmer of my true face.
Shinkokin wakashü 1053
Author unknown

Additional information:
  • PublicationGifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Hon’ami Kōetsu, a central figure in Japanese art at the turn of the seventeenth century, brushed the elegant calligraphy on this over twenty-seven-foot-long scroll. Throughout his lifetime, Kōetsu collaborated with other outstanding artists to breathe new life into traditional art forms. He revolutionized the visual effects of classical poetry scrolls, working with artists such as Tawaraya Sōtatsu to produce striking designs that complemented his distinctively bold calligraphy.

    This scroll features twelve poems—all on the subject of love and written in the traditional thirty-one-syllable format—from the early thirteenth-century imperial poetry anthology Shinkokin wakashū (New Collection of Japanese Poems from Ancient and Modern Times). The designs beneath the calligraphy depict gold- and silver-printed motifs of ivy, mehishiba grasses, and wisteria on nine sheets of paper dyed blue, pale pink, yellow, and cream. The papermaker Kamishi Sōji has stamped his rectangular seal at every other join of the paper on the reverse of the scroll, which also shows a random pattern of butterflies stamped in silver and gold. Kōetsu’s transcription of the twelve verses shows his characteristic variations of dark and light ink, and broad and fine brushstrokes, along with a scattering of the words among the grasses, which provide lovely, irregular visual patterns. His brushwork is particularly effective in such sections as the wisteria and grasses that span the blue and pink sheets of paper.

    Originally the scroll may have been longer, but it suffered fire damage at an unknown date. The careful restoration, undertaken in Japan in the 1980s, deliberately retained some signs of damage, emphasizing the beauty of age and wear, rather than denying or disguising the work’s history. Only a few handscrolls with Kōetsu’s calligraphy can be found in collections outside Japan, making this acquisition a major addition to the Museum’s holdings. Felice Fischer, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Gifts in Honor of the 125th Anniversary (2002), p. 21.

  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    Hon'ami Kōetsu, a central figure in Japanese art at the turn of the seventeenth century, revolutionized the visual effects of classical poetry scrolls, collaborating with other outstanding artists to produce striking designs that complemented his distinctively bold calligraphy.

    This scroll features twelve poems--all on the subject of love--from an early thirteenth-century imperial poetry anthology. The designs beneath the elegant calligraphy depict gold- and silver-printed motifs of ivy, grasses, and wisteria on nine sheets of dyed paper. Kōetsu's transcription of the verses shows his characteristic variations of dark and light ink, and broad and fine brushstrokes, along with a scattering of the words among the grasses, which provide lovely, irregular patterns. Originally the scroll may have been longer, but it suffered fire damage. Its careful restoration in the 1980s deliberately retained some signs of damage, emphasizing the beauty of age and wear, rather than denying or disguising the work's history. Felice Fischer, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections, 2009.

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