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painting / hanging scroll

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1913,0501,0.405

  • Description

    Painting, hanging scroll. Chinese beauty Yang Guifei playing flute, seated alone on elaborate Chinese-style throne, surrounded by flowering trees and peonies in open mountain landscape. Ink, colour and gold on silk. Signed and sealed.

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1795-1818
  • Production place

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 43.9 centimetres
    • Width: 60.3 centimetres
    • Height: 132 centimetres (with mount)
    • Width: 77 centimetres (with mount)
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        signature
      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom left
      • Inscription Language

        Japanese
      • Inscription Content

        鳥文齋栄之筆
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Chobunsai Eishi hitsu
      • Inscription Translation

        Brush of Chobunsai Eishi
      • Inscription Type

        seal
      • Inscription Script

        Japanese
      • Inscription Position

        image, bottom left
      • Inscription Content

        栄之
      • Inscription Transliteration

        Eishi
      • Inscription Comment

        In red.
  • Curator's comments

    Clark 1992

    Yang Guifei was the fabulously beautiful consort of the Tang Emperor Xuanzong (AD 685-762). At his command the poet Li Bo composed poems likening her beauty to the peony, most prestigious of flowers, and comparing her to female deities and immortals. Eishi did several paintings of Yang Guifei, on one occasion pitting her against the equally fabled Japanese court beauty Ono no Komachi and a Yoshiwara courtesan in 'Parody of the Three Vinegar Tasters' (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston). Here, however, perhaps taking his idea from Li Bo's poem likening her to female mountain hermits, Eishi has painted Yang Guifei playing the flute, seated alone on an elaborate Chinese-style throne, surrounded by flowering trees and peonies in an otherwise open mountain landscape. He also did two upright versions of this composition (Freer Gallery of Art; 'Kokka', 487 (1931), p. 178).

    The skilful overlaying of washes in the landscape to produce an effect of light seen through appropriately mythical clouds gives evidence of Eishi's early training in the Edo-Kano style, and combines with his hyper-refined figure drawing and the wealth of chinoiserie accessories to produce a work with an exceptionally rich range of tonalities.

    Literature:
    Brandt, Klaus J. 'Hosoda Eishi 1756-1829'. Stuttgart, K. J. Brandt, 1977, painting no. 478.
    Tokyo National Museum (eds), 'Daiei Hakubutsukan shozo Nihon Chugoku bijutsu meihin ten' ('Masterpieces of Japanese and Chinese Art from the British Museum'). Exh. cat., 28 Apr.-7 June 1987, no. 24.
    '(Hizo) Ukiyo-e taikan' ('Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections'), ed. Narazaki Muneshige. Vol. 1, Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987, no. 126.
    Smith, Lawrence, 'Japanese Art: Masterpieces in the British Museum', with Victor Harris and Timothy Clark. London, British Museum Publications, 1990, no. 197.Asahi 1996

    唐の玄宗皇帝(685-762)の寵姫楊貴妃の美は、皇帝の命により詩人李白が作った詩の中で、花王牡丹や仙女•女神にたとえられた。栄之には数点の楊貴妃図があり、日本の美女小野小町と吉原の遊女に楊貴妃を組み合わせる「見立三酸図」もある(ボストン美術館蔵)。しかしここでは、楊貴妃を仙女によそえた李白の詩に想を得て、広やかな山水の中、花木や牡丹に囲まれて繊細な中国風の玉座に一人座り笛を奏でる楊貴妃を描いている。同構図の縦軸が2点ある(フリーア美術館蔵。『国華』487号 1931年 178頁)。

    淡彩を重ねる風景表現は、神話的な雲から光が漏れるかのような効果を醸しており、栄之がかって江戸狩野に学んだことを証している。洗練を極めた人物描写や中国趣味の華麗な小道具もあいまって、本作品は、高水準で整った作品となっている。

    (竹内美砂子(名古屋市博物館))Smith et al 1990

    Yang Guifei was the fabulously beautiful consort of the Tang Emperor Xuanzong (AD 685-762). At his command, the poet Li Bai composed poems likening her beauty to the peony, most prestigious of flowers, and comparing her to female deities and immortals. As the archetypal exotic Chinese beauty, Yang Guifei was a popular subject for Japanese Ukiyo-e painters and printmakers, and Eishi himself painted her many times, on occasion comparing her with the fabled Japanese court beauty Ono no Komachi. In compositions by other artists Yang Guifei is shown playing the flute with Emperor Xuanzong, but here Eishi - perhaps taking his idea from Li Bai's poem likening her to female mountain hermits - has seated her alone on a Chinese-style throne set amid trees and flowers in an otherwise open mountain landscape.

    Eishi was unusual among Ukiyo-e painters in that he was of noble samurai birth and began his artistic career as a pupil of Kano school artist Eisen-in Norinobu (1730-90), the leading academic painter in attendance to the shogun. This early Kano training is clearly apparent in the ink-wash technique used here in the landscape, and, combined with Eishi's hyper-refined figure drawing, produces a work with an exceptionally rich range of tonalities.

    FURTHER READING
    Brandt, Klaus, J., 'Hosoda Eishi', Stuttgart, 1977.

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Hizo Ukiyo-e taikan Vol 1 126 bibliographic details
    • Smith et al 1990 197 bibliographic details
    • Tokyo National Museum 1987 24 bibliographic details
    • Asahi 1996 55 bibliographic details
    • Clark 1992 72 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    2012 - 2013, Shanghai, 'Treasures' (taster loan)

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1913

  • Acquisition notes

    The collection of Japanese and Chinese paintings belonging to Arthur Morrison was purchased by Sir William Gwynne-Evans, who presented it to the British Museum in 1913.

  • Department

    Asia

  • Registration number

    1913,0501,0.405

  • Additional IDs

    • Jap.Ptg.1424 (Japanese Painting Number)
COMPASS Title: Hosoda Eishi, The Chinese beauty Yang Guifei, a hanging scroll painting

Unknown

COMPASS Title: Hosoda Eishi, The Chinese beauty Yang Guifei, a hanging scroll painting

Image description

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