Sumiyoshi Hirosada, Court amusements in spring and autumn, a pair of hanging scroll paintings

Japan
Edo period, mid-19th century AD

The viewing of cherry blossom in the spring, and the moon in autumn were traditionally two of the most important annual events of the Imperial court in Kyoto. These annual events were known as the Nenjū Gyōji.

In the spring scroll an ornate pleasure-boat with a dragon prow and an elaborate awning carries a group of court women beneath the cherry trees. Two maid-servants are punting, while behind them sit two women in elaborate court dress. One costume is decorated with cherry flowers. As they admire the blossoms, one woman uses her fan, while another shields her eyes with her hand. In the background a willow tree is just coming into leaf, and yellow flowers, possibly Japanese yamabuki (kerria), bloom on the river bank.

In the moon-viewing scene courtiers perform music for their lord in a space marked off by colourful awnings. They play a biwa (lute), koto (Japanese harp), flute and sho (a type of mouth organ). Food is placed on a lacquer stand. The partially clouded moon shines gently down on the reddening maple leaves, pampas grass, bush clover and bellflowers.

Hirosada looks back to an earlier age with nostalgia. His pride in his position as a Yamato-e painter is shown by the vermilion red seals, reading 'yamato-e' impressed on each scroll. He is following in the footsteps of the founder of the Sumiyoshi school, Jokei (1599-1670), who had made a copy of the ancient Nenjū Gyōji paintings. From the later seventeenth century onwards, the Sumiyoshi artists worked for the shoguns in Edo while the Tosa school treated traditional themes for the Imperial court in Kyoto.

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More information

Bibliography

L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

Dimensions

Height: 974.000 mm
Width: 362.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 270 (1881.12-10.216);Asia JA JP 271 (1881.12-10.217)

JCF242;JCF243

William Anderson Collection

Location

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