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Hanabusa Itchō, Xiwangmu, Butterflies around Bamboo and Chrysanthemums and Butterfly over Cotton Roses, a triptych of ha

Xiwangmu (centre)

  • Butterfly over Cotton Roses (left)

    Butterfly over Cotton Roses (left)

  • Left: detail of signature and seals

    Left: detail of signature and seals

  • Butterflies around Bamboo and Chrysanthemums (right)

    Butterflies around Bamboo and Chrysanthemums (right)

 

Height: 1144.000 mm (each)
Width: 415.000 mm (each)

William Anderson Collection

Asia JA JP 673-5 (1881.12-10.01722-4)

    Hanabusa Itchō, Xiwangmu, Butterflies around Bamboo and Chrysanthemums and Butterfly over Cotton Roses, a triptych of hanging scroll paintings

    Japan
    Early Kyōhō era (AD 1716-36)

    A triptych from the Kanō school

    Xiwangmu, the Queen Mother of the West, approaches through the sky riding on a cloud. She can be identified by her phoenix hair ornament, by the phoenix design on her robe, and particularly by the branch of peaches she holds in her left hand. Xiwangmu's 'peaches of immortality' were supposed to grow in the gardens of her realm high in the Kunlun Mountains to the west of China. She appears first in writings dating to the Western Han dynasty (206 BC - AD 9).

    The paintings are done in the academic manner of the Kanō school, most likely to hang in a nobleman or merchant's house. They have a formality and an elegance unusual for Itchō's work, which was generally light-hearted. Itchō (1652-1724) was exiled from 1698 to 1709 to the island of Izu Miyake-jima, possibly for insulting the shōgun's favourite concubine. This set of paintings dates from after his return, when he adopted the name Itchō.

    The script used in the signature on the Xiwangmu scroll is reisho (ancient square characters), while gyōsho (semi-cursive script) is used on the other two, to show the difference in ranking. The signatures read 'Hanabusa Itchō zu' and 'Hanabusa Itchō sho' ('painted by Hanabusa Itchō'). The seals are ‘Shinkō no in' ('Seal of Shinkō') on the two butterfly scrolls, and a phrase in kanbun (pseudo-Chinese) on the Xiwangmu scroll which translates as, 'There is taste in the spaces between mountains, clouds, springs, and rocks.'

    I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)

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