- Museum number
Painting, hanging scroll. Mt Fuji in background and Shiraito Falls in foreground; probably copy of work by Someya Yuzen. Ink and light colour on paper and silk. Signed and sealed.
- Production date
Height: 174 centimetres (mount)
Height: 57.30 centimetres
Width: 110 centimetres (mount)
Width: 88.40 centimetres
- Curator's comments
The Shiraito ('White thread') Falls are still a noted beauty spot on the Shiba River, on the western slopes of Mt Fuji. According to old gazetteers, their height is recorded as 87 'shaku' (about 26 m) and their combined width 72 'ken' (about 130 m); the largest two were called the 'male' and 'female' falls but otherwise the thread-like streams were too numerous to name; the surrounding area was dense with wisteria, azaleas and maples.
Suminoe Buzen was a resident of Osaka and followed careers as a ship's captain and as a metal-carver, before becoming an artist. He is also known to have been skilled at making tray-gardens ('bonseki'). Buzen is best known for paintings of beauties in the style of his teacher Tsukioka Settei (1726-86), but there are written references to landscape paintings by him and at least one more scroll painting 'Birds in the Wild' is known in a Western-influenced style similar to the present work (Osaka Shiritsu Bijutsukan, eds, 'Kinsei Osaka gadan', 1983, no. 172). The low viewpoint, volumetric shading used in the rocks, and framing of the composition with foliage are all elements of this Western-influenced style, and the mechanical repetition of dots used for the trees here suggests that it was specifically imported European prints that Buzen was copying. The highlighting of certain areas in white pigment - here the falls - is another feature shared by the painting 'Birds in the Wild'. The present very subdued colouring may be deceptive, and the painting may in fact be badly faded. In the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, there is a later, approximate copy of this composition bearing the signature 'Nanrei' (though not apparently a work by Suzuki Nanrei, 1774-1844), which uses a bright blue pigment in the water and a bright green pigment in the foliage. Another unresolved issue is the inscription next to the signature which says that Buzen is copying a composition by 'Yuzen'. The only noted artist to use this name was Miyazaki Yuzen (who worked about the Genroku era, 1688-1704), the fan-painter and designer of kimono patterns after whom the Yuzen technique of fabric dying is named, but a connection between him and the present painting is not immediately apparent.
Anderson, William. 'Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of a Collection of Japanese and Chinese Paintings in the British Museum'. London, Trustees of the British Museum, 1886, no. 815.
'Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan'. vol. 3, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993, no. 53 (commentary by Hoshino Suzu).
Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 3
Suminoe Buzen (1734-1806) was also known as Dokan (Michiyasu) and Shizen, Buzen being his artistic name. The most striking feature of this picture, which is divided horizontally into two sections depicting, respectively, Mt. Fuji and the Shiraito Falls, is its affinity with decorative art. The thicket of trees that divides the picture across its centre looks almost like a layer of individual leaves, in which trunks and branches form the veins, spreading out over the top of the waterfall. The technique is reminiscent of the etching but is not in itself enough to suggest any particular school; it seems more likely to derive, in fact, from the artist's own experience of engraving and of miniature tray landscapes.
'after a picture by Yūzen, a famous dyer & designer of costume.' (unattributed annotations in the specially interleaved Japanese Study Room copy of Anderson 1886)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001, 11 May-29 Jul, BM Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'
2013 Apr – Oct, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from Prehistory to the Present'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The collection of over 2,000 Japanese and Chinese paintings assembled by Prof. William Anderson during his residency in Japan, 1873-1880, was acquired by the Museum in 1881. The items were not listed in the register, but rather were published separately as the 'Descriptive and Historical Catalogue of a Collection of Japanese and Chinese Paintings in the British Museum' (Longmans & Co, 1886).
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.1955 (Japanese Painting Number)