Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真(1807-1891) SET OF TANZAKU (POEM-CARDS) WITH DESIGNS FOR THE TWELVE MONTHS 月次絵短冊 Meiji era (1868-1912), circa 1870-1890 (14)

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Lot 8*
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真(1807-1891) SET OF TANZAKU (POEM-CARDS) WITH DESIGNS FOR THE TWELVE MONTHS 月次絵短冊
Meiji era (1868-1912), circa 1870-1890

Sold for £ 25,000 (US$ 31,635) inc. premium
Shibata Zeshin 柴田是真(1807-1891) SET OF TANZAKU (POEM-CARDS) WITH DESIGNS FOR THE TWELVE MONTHS 月次絵短冊
Meiji era (1868-1912), circa 1870-1890
Ink, colours, and gold on silk mounted on thin card, with a gold-painted border
For signatures and seals, please refer to the individual descriptions below
Each 36.0 × 6.3 cm (14 1/8 × 2½ in.)
With fitted wooden storage box inscribed outside Tanzaku jūnikagetsu たんざく 十二ヶ月 (Tanzaku for the twelve months); inscribed inside Hachijūgo-ō Tairyūkyo Zeshin 八十五翁 対柳居是真 (Tairyūkyo Zeshin, aged 85); stencil-dyed cotton slipcase
Provenance: Yamauchi Collection (Kōsetsusai)
Published:Tōkyō Bijutsu Kurabu 1926, cat. no. 87
山内家(香雪斎)旧藏
(14).

Footnotes

  • Zeshin loved to create sets of paintings or lacquers on the theme of the twelve months, each of them with a different selection of designs, including time-honoured motifs dating back many centuries as well as more recent festivals and customs. Among the best known are a set of twelve inrō in the Victoria and Albert Museum (Gōke 1981b,pl. 61-72), a set of twelve zodiac-animal plaques in the Burke Collection (Gōke 1981b, pl. 103–115), a set of twelve paintings in the Khalili Collection, similar to this one in size and style but with different motifs, dating from circa 1884 (Earle 1996, cat. no. 100), another set of the same size in Itabashi Art Museum (Yasumura 2009, cat. no. J-40), another set in a private collection (Gōke 1981b, pl. 285-296) and three further sets reproduced in posthumous exhibition catalogues (Shioda 1908 and Shibata 1912, both unpaginated). The present lot was sold at auction in Tokyo on 12 April 1926 (Tōkyō Bijutsu Kurabu 1926).

    First Month
    正月 手まり
    Two itomari or temari (balls made from silk thread)
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Tairyūkyo 対柳居
    With paper wrapper inscribed Shōgatsu temari (First month, silk balls)

    Itomari or temari (balls made from silk thread) were a favourite children's gift at New Year. Zeshin often depicted two of them, one slightly larger than the other, to symbolize the many festivities that mark the first month. For two examples in lacquer, see Nezu Bijutsukan 2012, cat. nos. 2 and 4.

    Second Month
    二月 梅
    Three figures with large straw hats in a shower of rain, one wearing a straw raincoat, another holding branches of plum
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Reisai 令哉
    With paper wrapper inscribed Nigatsu ume (Second month, plum)

    Associated with the coming of spring, plum blossoms were—and still are—celebrated during the second month at several shrine festivals held in and around Edo/Tokyo.

    Third Month
    三月 ひいな
    Two dolls with shells
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Hanken 半縣
    With paper wrapper inscribed Sangatsu hiina (Third month, dolls)

    Tachibina, paired male and female dolls made from paper or fabric, were made for Hinamatsuri (the Girls' Festival) whch took place on the third day of the third lunar month. One of Zeshin's favourite subjects, they are seen on many of his lacquers: a well known example is a suzuribako in the Khalili Collection (Earle 1996, cat. no. 5). The seal Hanken, not often seen after Zeshin's signature, may also be found on a painting of a rustic scene in the Khalili Collection (Earle 1996, cat. no. 96) and a painting of leaves and wild grasses reproduced in Link 1979, cat. no. 43.

    Fourth Month
    四月 ほととぎす
    A hototogisu flying over rice paddies with Shinto offerings; a willow tree to the left
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Koma 古満
    With paper wrapper inscribed Shigatsu hototogisu (Fourth month, cuckoo)

    A long-established symbol of late spring, the hototogisu (lesser cuckoo, Cuculus poliocephalus) is here shown flying over freshly planted paddy fields. Zeshin depicted the same book-shaped paper offering in a panel he made in 1882 and explained the motif in a lecture he gave in 1887 (Earle 1996, cat. no. 27).

    Fifth Month
    五月 菖蒲
    A rustic hut with a flowering stem of iris thrust into its thatched roof, a water buffalo visible through the hut's window
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Shin
    With paper wrapper inscribed Gogatsu ayame (Fifth month, iris)

    The fifth-month custom of putting stems of ayame (iris) on the roofs of houses was recorded around 1330 by priest Yoshida Kenkō in his great collection of essays Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness): 'In the fifth month, when iris leaves are scattered on the roofs and the young rice planted out, the cry of the waterfowl is full of melancholy.' (Yoshida 2009, p. 10). Zeshin loved to depict somewhat dilapidated rustic buildings; for an example, see Earle 1995, cat. no. 49, an inrō in the Khalili Collection depicting the impoverished scholar Shain's humble dwelling.

    Sixth Month
    六月 富士
    A group of pilgrims ascending Mount Fuji
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Shin
    With paper wrapper inscribed Rokugatsu Fuji (Sixth month, Fuji)

    The sixth month marked the traditional opening of the mountaineering season. For other tanzaku by Zeshin with a similar design, see Earle 1996, cat. no. 100.6 and Gōke 1981b, pl. 290. Zeshin himself climbed Japan's most famous peak in 1872 and composed a haiku to mark the event (Gōke 1974, p. 45):

    Fuji orite / ashi ni hōbi ya / nadesasuri

    Down from Mount Fuji / though my poor feet need a prize / a rub's all they'll get!

    Seventh Month
    七月 踊り
    A night scene: four dancers of different social classes, with mask, lantern, drum, and fans, followed by a dog
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Zeshin 是真
    With paper wrapper inscribed Shichigatsu odori (Seventh month, dance)

    The design alludes to the Bon-odori dance festival held in the middle of the seventh lunar month on the artificial island of Tsukudajima in Edo/Tokyo Bay. Dating back to the Great Fire of 1657, the festival is the oldest such event in the Tokyo region.

    Eighth Month
    八月 秋草
    Autumn plants against the full moon: susuki (plume grass), fujibakama (thoroughwort), nadeshiko (fringed pink), and creeper
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Shin
    With paper wrapper inscribed Hachigatsu akikusa (Eighth month, autumn plants)

    Although Zeshin's choice of motif varies for most other times of year, in the case of the eighth month he almost invariably included a depiction of the full moon, which was considered at its best in the early autumn, often in combination with autumn plants, especially susuki.

    Ninth Month
    九月 嵐山紅葉
    Autumn foliage in Arashiyama, Kyoto; in the foreground the Togetsukyō Bridge across the Ōi River
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Zeshin 是真
    With paper wrapper inscribed Kugatsu Arashiyama momiji (Ninth month, autumn foliage at Arashiyama)

    The Arashiyama district in western Kyoto is one of Japan's most popular spots for the appreciation of autumn colours. Although Zeshin was very much an Edokko, a proud native of Edo/Tokyo, his occasional choice of motifs from Kyoto reflects his two-year stay in Japan's ancient capital when he was in his twenties.

    Tenth Month
    十月 えびす
    The deity Ebisu with bamboo rod and bream
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Take
    With paper wrapper inscribed Jūgatsu Ebisu (Tenth month, Ebisu)

    The tenth month in the lunar calendar was also known as Kaminazuki (Godless Month) because all Japan's deities were summoned to the Grand Shrine at Izumo, with the exception of Ebisu, one of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune and a guardian deity of fishermen. Special celebrations, including offerings of tai (bream), were therefore held in his honour.

    Eleventh Month
    十一月 神楽面
    Kagura masks
    Signed Zeshin 是真 with seal Reisai 令哉
    With paper wrapper inscribed Jūichigatsu kaguramen (Eleventh month, kagura masks)

    During the eleventh month, rustic festivals featuring dancers wearing kagura masks were held throughout Japan; one surviving example is a night festival held at Takachiho in Miyagi Prefecture. Another instance of this eleventh-month design, with the title Sato kagura (Village Kagura), was included in a catalogue of works by Zeshin edited by his son in 1912 (Shibata 1912).

    Twelfth Month
    十二月 年の市
    A wooden bucket containing a rope and leaves, a sprig of fern resting on its side
    Signed shin 真 on the side of the bucket
    With paper wrapper inscribed Jūnigatsu toshi no ichi (Twelfth month, year-end fair)

    The word toshi no ichi (year-end fair) on the paper wrapper offers a clue to the significance of this design. Held in several parts of Edo/Tokyo toward the end of the twelfth month, toshi no ichi were an opportunity to purchase all the decorations needed for the New Year festivities, including shimekazari (sacred ropes) and wakamizu-oke (buckets for the first water drawn on the morning of New Year's day). Zeshin playfully includes his signature in the design.
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