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Tosa Mitsumochi, Horse-breaking, a 2-fold screen painting

  • Detail: signature and seals

    Detail: signature and seals

 

Height: 1515.000 mm
Weight: 1678.000 mm

Gift of Godfrey Gompertz

Asia JA JP ADD919 (1989.12-21.01)

    Tosa Mitsumochi, Horse-breaking, a 2-fold screen painting

    Japan, AD 1560s

    This is a panoramic autumn scene in the mountains, with the leaves of the maple tree turning colour. Two horses are swimming in the river at the bottom of the composition, three more are galloping into view at the top, and in the centre, on a flat promontory in the water, a sixth is being ridden bareback and rears up, as three men try to pacify it.

    The basic forms are done in ink, with delicate use of light colours on the rocks, horses, and figures. A mist of gold dust floats over the scene, but this is not meant to provide the usual spatial abstraction. In her detailed study of the work, Kawamoto Keiko has argued that, though the screen features an attempt to train horses, this is just one part of a general scene of nature, representing a turning-point between landscape paintings and genre works.

    Mitsumochi (1496- about 1559) attempted to unite Chinese and Japanese painting techniques and re-established the fortunes of the Tosa school. The naturalistic techniques visible here and the expressive quality of his works were new to native Yamato-e painting. This rare work is invaluable in allowing us to see how a Tosa artist incorporated the realistic spirit of Chinese painting.

    The inscription reads 'Gyōbu Daisuke Mitsumochi hisseki / Shōkan Mitsuoki kore [o] shō[su]' ('From the brush of Gyōbu Daisuke Mitsumochi, verified by the shōkan Mitsuoki'). It is clear from this that Tosa Mitsuoki (1617-91) was asked to verify the screen's authenticity, which he duly did. His seal reads 'Mitsuoki no in' ('Seal of Mitsuoki'). It appears this two-fold screen was originally two fusuma (sliding doors) - perhaps part of a larger set.

    Kawamoto Keiko, 'Tosa Mitsumochi no "Bokuba zu" ni tsuite', Kokka-1, 1244 (1999), pp. 5-18

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