Tosa Mitsunari, Monk Saigyō, a hanging scroll painting

Japan
Edo period, AD 1681-96

Saigyō (1118-90) was a monk of the Buddhist Shingon sect during the Heian period (794-1185). He was famous for his asceticism and his love of beauty, and he journeyed around Japan, composing poetry inspired by what he saw and felt in the course of these long travels. Episodes from his lfe were a popular subject for handscrolls and other painted formats from the thirteenth century onwards.

The text and poem inscribed on the present work are from the collection of his verses, Sankashū ('Mountain Hermitage Anthology'). The painting below illustrates the text quite faithfully: on an autumn night, Saigyō has stopped outside a gate to listen to the sound of a koto (lateral harp) being played inside the house. The presence of the beautiful lady playing the harp is suggested by the end of the instrument that is visible, and the brocade curtains that surround her. Above the scene hovers the full autumn moon. The sensitively rendered, expressive face is typical of Tosa painting at its most accomplished.

Mitsunari (1646-1710) was the son-in-law of Mitsuoki (1617-91), the artist who revived the family's fortunes in the early Edo period. The signature reads ‘Tosa shō-rokui [no] ge, Sa-Konoe Shōkan, Fuijiwara Mitsunari' ('Imperial Guard of the Left, Tosa Fujiwara Mitsunari, Lower Sixth Rank'). The seal reads 'Mitsunari no in' ('Seal of Mitsunari'). Mitsunari held the lower sixth court rank between 1681 and 1696.

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Tosa Mitsunari, Monk Saigyō, a hanging scroll painting

  • Detail: signature and seals

    Detail: signature and seals

 

More information

Bibliography

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

Dimensions

Height: 961.000 mm
Width: 391.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 113 (1881.12-10.0204)

JCF228

Location

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