Shikishi Paper with a Scene from The Tales of Ise, attributed to Tawaraya Sōtatsu

  • Attributed to Tawaraya Sotatsu
  • Edo period
  • 17c
  • Hanging scroll, ink, color, and gold on paper
  • H-24.3 W-21.1
Catalogue Entry

Decorated with gold paint clouds above and below, the composition of this poem square format work centers on a river drawn in lapis and malachite green. Green grass grows from the thickly painted gold earth, and a woman washes her brush in the flowing stream. She wears a kimono with white ground and a pattern of scattered gold and black cherry blossoms. Layers of red and green under kimono show at the edges of her sleeves, combining with her long hair and beautiful face to create a lovely image.

The scene is inscribed with phrases referring to a couple from the Tale of Ise who question the constancy of each other's feelings, here simply depicted in this scene of a woman lost in thought.
This poem square is thought to be one work from a series of Tale of Ise poem squares created by the studio of Tawaraya Sotatsu, and several different types of these square are extant, ranging in painting style and whether or not they have text inscriptions. This work shows large differences in the handling of the background color and the overall relaxed feel, which combined with black lines of the figures and flowing water are all drawn with a correct and measured brush style. There is the suggestion that Sotatsu's own hand can be found in this work, but a comparison between the Miho work and those in the collection of Masuda Takashi seem to indicate that the Miho work is characterized by a more monotonous expression, and the quiet surface and bird's eye view composition would seem to indicate that the work was created by Sotatsu's studio at a relatively late date. This is an elegant and lovely work.