Fragment of Choju jinbutsu giga (Frolicking Animals and Figures), ko scroll

  • Late Heian period
  • 12c
  • Hanging scroll, ink on paper
  • H-29.2 W-51.6
    Handed down by Kozanji temple, formerly in the collection of Sakai Hoitsu
Catalogue Entry

Late Heian period, 12th century
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
Height, 29.2cm; width, 51.6cm

Of the 4 scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Figures Scrolls in the collection of Kozanji, the first scroll with its thorough use of energetic ink lines and its depiction of rabbits, monkeys, frogs, and other animals imitating the actions of humans is a justly famous work. This 1st scroll was originally 2 scrolls, but with the damage that occurred over its long history, it has been posited that the present 1st scroll is made up of the remaining parts of these 2 scrolls mounted as 1 scroll. In line with this supposition, there are omissions and sections appearing out of order, and several missing fragments from this scroll are known to exist. This fragment is one of these lost fragments and has come to light relatively recently. The accompanying authentication statement by the Sumiyoshi family states that it is known that this fragment was in the possession of a certain Kitani Kiroku in the late Edo period, and then in the Meiji period, it entered the hands of the famous collector Nagai Jissoku.
A survey of copies made in the Edo period and other fragments that connect to this fragment indicate the meaning of the scene depicted in this fragment. Namely, these animals shown amongst autumn grasses can be divided into two groups, the right half centering around the monkey who raises his left hand and holds a fan in his right hand, trying to stop the wild dash of the deer who has shed his monkey rider in the previous race scene between deer steeds. This action draws the attention of the fox wearing a woman's hat and the rat who drags along fruit on a cord. The left group centers on a monkey who carries a circular box of fruit on her head and has a baby monkey slung on her back, and a frog with a baby frog riding on his shoulders and waving a fan. They are part of a group that is proceeding to the next scene of a kemari football competition. The crouched position of the frog in the foreground of this left group implies that the kemari scene is nearby.

Overall, the image is depicted in black ink lines, but it is not simply an example of line drawing; rather, the frog's back, the monkey's face, and sections of the ominaeshi and fujibakama flowers are drawn with an ink wash-like technique. Clearly this shows the talents of a painter versed in the subtle expressiveness of ink. A deeply affectionate observation of animals combines with a superb design based on brush techniques to make this a truly impressive work. These scrolls are often called the "Toba Giga," or comic paintings of Toba, implying that they were painted by Toba Sojo (Kakuyu, 1053-1140), and while there is ample evidence in Toba's extant works to indicate that he was a technically refined painter, and there is literary evidence that he painted richly satirical works, there is no direct evidence to show that he painted these so-called Toba Giga scrolls. JW