> “Views of Matsushima and Shiogama”


(各)358.8 × 137(高さ)cm

“Views of Matsushima and Shiogama”

Edo period, 17th century
358.8 × 137 (height) cm, each
Pair of folding screens in six panels, painted on paper in ink, mineral pigment, and gold paint


Price on request

Dr.K says


The work is not fully coated in gold leaf, allowing us to glimpse the paper ground onto which the colors and golden clouds were applied. The painting depicts two famous locales in the area of northeastern Japan that have been used as poetic tropes for centuries: Matsushima and Shiogama. Paintings like this one belong to an established category of artworks showcasing sites lauded in traditional Japanese poetry. Making skillful use of the large pictorial area available, the right screen of the pair depicts Matsushima alongside one of its landmarks, the temple Zuiganji. The left screen presents us with Shiogama Shrine and the salt pans along the shore that gave the locale—Shiogama literally means “salt furnace”—its name.
Similar screens that pair different poetic sites were popular, and were produced in large numbers. We find works depicting Amanohashidate, Itsukushima, Sumiyoshi Shrine, Shitennōji, Wakanoura, Matsushima, among other places that also frequently appear in Japanese poetry. However, the pairing of Matsushima and Shiogama is unique, and this pair of screens might be the only known such example.
The width of the individual sheets of paper that form the painting’s ground have a width of roughly 34 centimeters, and the gold leaves are each circa 10 centimeters wide. These features along with the general sense of vivacity and the sumptuous colors allow for a dating to the mid-17th century.
Of note are the small figures scattered throughout the painting, whose style and attention to detail is reminiscent of some of the finest Kano-school paintings. It is fair to assume that the painting may even date to an earlier time than the mid-17th century, an assumption supported by the rendering of the rock surfaces throughout.
Although the work belongs to the category of poetic images, it is also an exquisite genre painting. The written labels specifying individual sites within the painting suggest that the work may have been made for a person of means living in a region far removed from those depicted, such as Kyoto. The sumptuous use of gold leaf and the high-quality pigments speak of the expense necessary for commissioning the work. The pair of screens is truly a masterpiece of early Edo-period poetic and genre painting.