- Museum number
Painting, hanging scroll. Portrait of Minamoto no Yoritomo in court dress, holding sceptre and wearing sword. Ink, colours and gold on silk. Inscribed.
- Production date
- 14thC(late) (or later copy)
Height: 267 centimetres (mount)
Height: 145 centimetres
Width: 114 centimetres (mount)
Width: 88.30 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Smith et al 1990
This portrait is based closely on that attributed to the artist Fujiwara Takanobu (1142-1205), long preserved in the Jingoji Temple, Kyoto, with two other portraits (designated in Japan as 'National Treasures'). The identification of the subjects of these three has been traditional but unproved. The inscription on the British Museum painting describes the sitter as Yoritomo,the defeater of the Taira family and the unifier and pacifier of Japan. By analogy with other portraits of great priests and founders (see 1964, 0711, 01), a number of copies may have been made for use and suitable reverence in important political centres. By ending some 600 years of bureaucratic rule centred on the court and moving his seat of government to the small town of Kamakura, Yoritomo turned Japanese polity upside-down and needed to be regarded with reverence as well as fear. The impressive sense of a formidable personality, even in a copy, is testimony to the incisiveness of Kamakura period portraiture.
Kyoto National Museum, 'Nihon no shozo', Tokyo, 1978
Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 1
Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (1147-99) is renowned as Japan's first shogun, appointed when the military government was initially established in the Kamakura period (for more information on Yoritomo, see also Plate 24, 'Takadachi Monogatari'). Of the three portraits ranked as National Treasures and preserved in Kyoto's Jingo-ji namely, those of Minamoto-no-Yoritomo, Taira-no-Shigemori, and Fujiwara-no-Mitsuyoshi - that of Yoritomo is the best known.
Here Yoritomo is shown holding a scepter and wearing a sword, just as he is in the Jingo-ji painting (which measures 139.4 x 111.8 cm), although his features in the present work are rather hard and lack the subtlety and fineness of the Jingo-ji painting. Another difference is that the black cloak seen here is of a solid color, whereas it is decorated with a circular pattern of arabesques in the Jingo-ji scroll. These variations suggest that the work held by the British Museum is the newer. No known works dating to the Kamakura period have such a fine silk weave with a texture close to plain silk, nor do we find any in which lapis lazuli blue fills in the background. The style of the characters in the inscription is reminiscent of the Shoren-in school, and the work may date from the Nanbokucho period, or somewhat later. In any case, this painting is important because it confirms that the scroll in Jingo-ji was considered a portrait of Minamoto-no-Yoritomo in the Nanbokucho period.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001, 30 Jan-8 Apr, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Arts of Japan: Recently repaired paintings, Ukiyo-e IV'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.Add.10 (Japanese Painting Additional Number)