Japanese Art in the Asia Society Collection

Asia Society

Poem Scroll
Calligraphy by Hon'ami Koetsu (1558-1637)
Painting by a follower of Tawaraya Sotatsu
Poem Scroll with Selections from the Anthology of Chinese and Japanese Poems for Recitation (Wakan roei shu)
Edo period, dated 1626
Handscroll; ink and gold on silk

This poem scroll is a work of the Rinpa (or Rin) school, made for an aristocratic patron. Rinpa was a loosely defined group of artists who flourished in the Edo period. Their works, characterized by a lavish use of gold and silver, bright colors, and bold forms, harked back to the Heian period (794-1185), when the Kyoto court was at its political and cultural height. By the time these works were made, much of the nobility was impoverished. Artists came from the merchant community and, although they ranked low in the Neo-Confucian hierarchy, their wealth was growing. Close links between artists and patrons satisfied both parties: artists supplied patrons with images of a glorious past, and patrons offered artists greater respectability.

Like other Japanese handscrolls, this poem scroll fuses the arts of painting and calligraphy in a way not found in Chinese handscrolls, where writing and image were confined to distinct areas.