Height: 303.000 mm
Width: 4111.000 mm
Gift of Sir W. Gwynne-Evans, Bt.
Asia JA JP 567 (1913.5-1.0208)
Kanō Tan'yū, a handscroll of shukuzu
Early Edo period, mid-17th century AD
The practice of making shukuzu, or reduced-size copies, is thought to have begun in ancient times, and possibly had its origins in collections of 'secret images'. Only religious shukuzu have survived from earlier periods, and the first artist before the modern period to invest them with any real energy was Kanō Tan'yū (1602-74).
Tan'yū put much effort into his shukuzu because they served three purposes: firstly, they provided inspiration and ideas to help his creative activities; secondly, they were an important reference in the task of evaluating paintings (Kanō artists gained extra revenue from passing judgement on the authenticity and value of old paintings); lastly, they could be used as materials to instruct students.
The copies illustrated here nearly all date from the Kambun era (1661-73). Although Tan'yū did produce shukuzu before this, they were largely destroyed in fires. This section of the scroll features mainly dragon and tiger compositions. The notes record who brought the painting to him and when, and a short assessment of the quality.
Tan'yū was the foremost artist of his day, and completed many large-scale commissions to decorate castles, palaces and temples for the newly established Tokugawa regime at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Even in these hasty sketches, however, his outstanding ability is clearly evident.
Many of the drawings bear a small gourd-shaped seal reading 'Seimei' )one of Tan'yū's art-names).
I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)