Circle of Iwasa Matabei (early-to-mid 17th century) Composing Poetry in a Spring Landscape
Lot 3095
Circle of Iwasa Matabei (early-to-mid 17th century)
Composing Poetry in a Spring Landscape
US$ 100,000 - 150,000
£62,000 - 93,000

Lot Details
Circle of Iwasa Matabei (early-to-mid 17th century)
Composing Poetry in a Spring Landscape
A large six-panel screen, ink, color, silver and gold pigment on paper applied with silver and gold foil, gilt metal disk; depicting elegant youths and beauties watching their companion hang a tanzaku poem card on a flowering cherry tree, the blossoms rendered in moriage and a large gilt metal sun to the far right; unsigned
67 7/8 x 144 1/2in (167.4 x 367cm)

Footnotes

  • Iwasa Matabei (1578-1650) has been credited with taking genre painting in a new direction - concentrating on larger figures engaged in pursuits of pleasure and leisure, largely devoid of geographical context.

    This spectacular screen shows fashionable young men and their beautiful female companions enjoying a cherry tree in full bloom in a garden. A stylishly-dressed young man reclining on a veranda, holds a long pipe as he gazes upon a gorgeously-clad woman hanging a freshly written poem card from a branch of the tree. Her attendant holds the lacquer tray with the writing brush and ink. Another attractive couple at the right lean on an armrest, and contemplate what to write, the writing set laid out before them.

    The emphasis here seems to be on the figures and the activity rather than on the surroundings. The artist has paid specific attention to the contemporary styles, (taking great care to show the unique patterns of each character's robe), and the current fashion trends (the inclusion of the impossibly long pipe suggests the rage for tobacco, recently introduced by the Portuguese around 1601). The figures are large in comparison to the composition.

    The painting here is typical of what came to be known as the Matabei style. The figures' faces are somewhat pear-shaped with wide jaws and narrow foreheads and the bodies are supple and long yet corpulent. The cherry blossoms rendered in bold relief (moriage) with subtle gold highlights create a sense of depth and three dimensionality. The lavish gold clouds are also enhanced with geometric shapes raised in moriage technique. Extensive use of gold and silver flecks further add to the luxurious atmosphere.

    The origins of tanzaku poem cards may be in divination papers used in ancient times or perhaps related to the small rectangular papers that were used in poetry gatherings in the Heian period. The custom of hanging tanzaku from cherry trees became a popular motif in ukiyo-e prints and paintings.

    Similar examples are published in Ukiyo-e painting masterpieces in the collection of the Azabu Museum of Art (Azabu Bijitsukan shozo nikuhitsu ukiyoe meihinten, Tokyo: Azabu Bijutsukan, [1988]), pl. 2, and Iwasa Matabe by Tsuji Nobuo, vol. 13 in the series Nihon bijutsu kaiga zenshu (Tokyo: Shueisha, Showa 55 [1980]), pl. 68. The later work also contains an illustrated article addressing the influence of Matabei on genre painting.
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