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Celebrating a Decade in Roppongi
Picture Scroll Enthusiasts

March 29 to May 14, 2017

*There will be an exhibition change during the course of exhibition
*Download the list of changes in works on display

The list of changes in worksPDF

Prologue: The Retired Emperor Go-Shirakawa

In the latter half of the twelfth century, the production of e-maki or picture scrolls peaked in terms of both quality and quantity. The retired emperor Go-Shirakawa (1127-1192), the first in a long line of picture scroll enthusiasts, was a central figure in this trend.

A devotee of the lyrical form known as imayō (verses consisting four lines, of 8-5 or 7-5 syllables, and sung to musical accompaniment) and known for compiling the Ryōjin Hishō, an anthology of imayō songs, the retired emperor Go-Shirakawa appreciated and collected a great range of cultural products, including Japanese and Chinese books, religious treasures, and musical instruments, which he kept in the treasury at his palatial Rengeō-in residential temple. As his interests and tastes took him beyond the usual pastimes of a retired emperor, Go-Shirakawa turned the Rengeō-in into something we might call a cultural enterprise. The picture scrolls he collected in large numbers are particularly noteworthy. It is said that Go-Shirakawa actively commissioned picture scrolls and stored them in his treasury. These commissioned scrolls included the voluminous Annual Events and Ceremonies Picture Scroll, which depicted the ceremonies and festivals at the Imperial Court and the capital.

It is possible that Woman with Insomnia, from the The Scroll of Diseases and Deformities, recently added to our museum’s collection, is regarded as one of the scrolls representing the disease and suffering that afflicts the human path that were included in the Rokudō-e scrolls depicting the six paths (heaven, humans, hungry ghosts, fighting spirits, beasts, and hell) in the Rengeō-in collection.

As well as introducing picture scrolls believed to be connected with the treasury at the Rengeō-in, the opening section of this exhibition also turns to historical records to explore the retired emperor Go-Shirakawa’s collections, which were by no means confined to picture scrolls.

Woman with Insomnia, from The Scroll of Diseases and Deformities, fragment (Important Cultural Property)

One hanging scroll
Heian period, 12th century
Suntory Museum of Art
【To be shown over an entire period】

1. The Emperor Hanazono

A century later, Emperor Hanazono (1297-1348), the third son of the Emperor Fushimi, became a devotee of the picture scrolls from the Rengeō-in treasury, which were lent to him by his father. He revealed, in The Diary of Emperor Hanazono, “I have loved pictures since I was a child.”

Takashina no Takakane, Director of the Office of Painting, was one of the painters who received commissions from the retired emperor Fushimi and the Emperor Hanazono, father and son. It has been pointed out that the most important among Takakane’s works, The Miracles of the Kasuga Gongen Deity (in the Sannomaru Shozokan, The Museum of the Imperial Collections), shows signs of his having studied the Annual Events and Ceremonies Picture Scroll and other paintings in the collections. Takashina no Takakane’s exalted style, which carried on a tradition of painting dating back to the Heian period, engendered another golden age of the picture scroll.

In this section, the viewer may enjoy a body of invaluable works in the style of Takashina no Takakane. These are examples of an age in which picture-scroll enthusiasts inspired a renaissance in picture scroll production.

Legends of the Ishiyama-dera Temple, Volume 1 (detail) (Important Cultural Property)

Calligraphy by Kōshu, One of seven volumes

Calligraphy: Kamakura period, ca.1324-26, painting: Nanbokuchō period, latter half of 14th century

Ishiyama-dera Temple, Shiga

【To be shown over an entire period】

2. The Prince Sadafusa and the Emperor Go-Hanazono
—Father and Son

The dates of production and the contexts for the picture scrolls that have come down to us from medieval times are often unclear. The Kanmon Diary, the diary of the Muromachi-period Prince Sadafusa of Fushimi (1372-1456), does, however, provide a rich account of picture scrolls. It is a primary historical source that tells us how the scrolls were handed down, the environment in which they were produced, and how they were valued at the time.

The Emperor Go-Hanazono (1419-1470), the oldest son of Prince Sadafusa, also had a strong interest in picture scrolls. We know from accounts in The Kanmon Diary that father and son had picture scrolls brought to them from various places for their appreciation and that they also lent each other picture scrolls. For example, The Illustrated Life of the Tripitaka Master Xuanzang, a priceless treasure of the Kōfuku-ji Daijō-in temple (now in the Fujita Museum collection), was taken to the capital, where the Emperor Go-Hanazono, after viewing it, lent it to his father, Sadafusa.

This section seeks, through Prince Sadafusa of Fushimi and his son Go-Hanazono, to suggest an image of true picture scroll enthusiasts, who not only enjoyed ancient and contemporary scrolls, but also made copies of their favorites themselves and created new ones.

Life of the Tripitaka Master Xuanzang, Volume 4 (detail)(National Treasure)

One of 12 volumes

Kamakura period, 14th century

Fujita Museum (Picture provided by Nara National Museum, Photo by Kyosuke Sasaki)

【To be shown between Mar.29 and Apr.24】

The Fart Battle

One volume (detail)

Muromachi period, dated 1449

Suntory Museum of Art

【To be shown over an entire period】

3. Sanjōnishi Sanetaka

The scholar and court noble Sanjōnishi Sanetaka (1455-1537), an important figure in the late Muromachi period, left us The Diary of Sanjōnishi Sanetaka, which he wrote for decades. A rich account of cultural phenomena as well as the political and social conditions at the time, the diary is filled with references to picture scrolls being brought to the Imperial Court or sent to other regions. This diary ranks with The Kanmon Diary by Prince Sadafusa of Fushimi as a vital historical record for research into medieval picture scrolls.

Sanetaka’s enthusiasm for picture scrolls is not confined to appreciating classic or famous works. A leading cultural figure of his time, Sanetaka contributed to the creation of many new picture scrolls, including writing fair copies of legends and drafts of tales to be depicted. In his last years, he took on the role of chief consultant to The Illustrated Legends of Kuwanomi-dera Temple, a picture scroll in the collection of Kuwanomi-dera Temple, Shiga prefecture.

In addition to picture scrolls relating the origins of temples and shrines, this section also introduces the viewer to The Conquest of Shuten Dōji (Suntory Museum of Art), a picture scroll concerning the famous “drunken ogre” produced at the request of Hōjō Ujitsuna, a daimyo in eastern Japan during the Muromachi period. It also includes the ko-e or small picture scrolls of otogi-zōshi, legends and tales, and other famous scrolls from the Muromachi period that were the product of interactions between the Imperial Court, the shogunate families, and temples and shrines.

The Tale of the Jizō Hall

One volume (detail)

Muromachi period, 15th century

Private collection

【To be shown over an entire period】

4. The Ashikaga Shoguns

The Muromachi shogunate was the first military administration to establish itself in the capital, the center of Imperial Court culture. Determined to gain control over the Imperial Court, successive generations of Ashikaga shoguns sought not only to achieve military, political, and economic power but also to stabilize their administrations by adopting traditional aristocratic culture.

That adoption of court culture also manifested itself in the Ashikaga shoguns’ enthusiasm for the picture scrolls. We know from The Kanmon Diary that Ashikaga Yoshinori (1394-1441), the sixth shogun, joined Prince Sadafusa of Fushimi and the Emperor Go-Hanazono, father and son, in a picture scroll lending circle. We also know that Sanjōnishi Sanetaka devoted himself to the production of The Illustrated Legends of Kuwanomi-dera Temple (Kuwanomi-dera Temple, Shiga prefecture) at the request of Ashikaga Yoshiharu (1511-1550), the twelfth shogun. Among the successive generations of Ashikaga shoguns, we must not fail to mention Ashikaga Yoshihisa (1465-1489), the ninth shogun, who was by nature an enthusiastic fan of picture scrolls.

This section explores the picture scroll mania among members of the samurai class who were contemporaries of the aristocratic enthusiasts at the Imperial Court mentioned in sections two and three, sometimes competing with them, and at other times collaborating with them.

Legends of Konda Hachiman-gu Shrine, Volume 2 (detail)

One of three volumes

Muromachi period, dated 1433

Konda Hachiman-gu Shrine, Osaka

【To be shown over an entire period】

Epilogue: Matsudaira Sadanobu

Matsudaira Sadanobu (1758-1829), the grandson of Tokugawa Yoshimune, the eighth Tokugawa shogun (in the Edo shogunate), led, as senior councilor to the shogunate, what are known as the Kansei Reforms. He also surveyed and recorded the antiquities that had been handed down at temples and shrines or in old families in every region of Japan. He is famous for his love of antiquities and for publishing the Shūko Jisshu (Collected Antiquities in Ten Categories), a major catalog of cultural assets.

A devotee of classic painting, Sadanobu also produced the Koga Ruijū, the compilation of copies of pictures from ancient paintings, which is regarded as the sequel to the Shūko Jisshu. Although the title refers to koga (classic or antique paintings), the work consists of nearly 150 picture scrolls. Not only did Sadanobu survey and classify ancient cultural assets, but he showed such mettle, working tirelessly to copy, restore, and supplement picture scrolls, that one cannot speak of him without mentioning his mania for these scrolls.

The final section explores a new type of enthusiasm for picture scrolls in the late Edo period, when scholarly projects to protect and preserve cultural assets were forerunners of today’s scholarly research and preservation efforts.

*Unauthorized reproduction or use of texts or images from this site is prohibited.

2021 January

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2021 July

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2021 September

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2021 October

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2021 November

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2021 December

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2022 January

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2022 February

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2022 March

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2022 April

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2022 May

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2022 June

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2022 July

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2022 August

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2022 September

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2022 October

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2022 November

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2022 December

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