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Shibata Zeshin, Kamo Festival, a hanging scroll painting

 

Height: 320.000 mm
Width: 450.000 mm

Bequeathed by James Orange

Asia JA JP ADD78 (1928.7-20.054)

    Shibata Zeshin, Kamo Festival, a hanging scroll painting

    Japan
    Late Edo period / early Meiji era, about AD 1850-1900

    An ox has been untethered from the cart it was drawing as part of the Aoi (Hollyhock) Festival of the Kamo Shrines in Kyoto, which still takes place each year on 15 May. It lies on the ground resting beside its drivers, who wear the ceremonial robes of court servants. Hollyhock leaves, the symbol of the festival, have been placed in a paper decoration in the red ropes tied around the animal's head.

    This picture is done in a technique developed by Zeshin (1807-91) known as urushi-e (lacquer picture). Zeshin trained as a producer of lacquerware, and by achieving an improved quality that did not crack or flake when dried, he managed to incorporate lacquer into two-dimensional paintings. Even on Japanese hanging scrolls, which are tightly rolled up for storage, the thinly applied lacquer has suffered only minimal damage.

    Here, a lustrous gold ground sets off the dense solidity of the massive black ox. This in turn is contrasted with the small boy in his brilliant red coat who offers it grasses to eat. Zeshin produced many such urushi-e, but this is one of the finest.

    The signature is also done in lacquer, and reads 'Zeshin'. The seal beneath reads 'Shin'.

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