Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Treasures of the Imperial Collections

Majestic tigers roam in the woods, peacocks in old pine trees look down upon you, mythical phoenixes spread their shining wings, marine creatures rejoice in the sea, and a riotous profusion of seasonal flowers smile at you.......

Chinese Lions (detail) by Kano Eitoku & Kano Tsunenobu,
(Right)Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century 
(Left) Edo period, 17th century
Sannomaru Shozokan
(The Museum of the Imperial Collections)

To commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Emperor's enthronement, the special exhibition, "Treasures of the Imperial Collections” is now being held at the Tokyo National Museum.

The imperial collections are the best collections of Japanese art and craft-works in our country. The exhibition consists of two parts: I went to see the first part which started on October 6th. The second part will start on November 12th. Let me introduce some of the exhibit currently on view.

Phoenixes and the Rising Sun (detail) by Ito Jakuchu
Edo period, 1755 , Sannomaru Shozokan

The first part of the exhibition focuses on masterworks by painters from pre-modern to modern times. One of the highlights is Ito Jakuchu. Jakuchu was born in Kyoto in 1716 and created his own style of painting which was a fusion of realism and imagination.

from The Colorful Realm of Living Beings  
by Ito Jakuchu  Edo period, 1757-66 
Sannomaru Shozokan  

His best known artwork, “The Colorful Realm of Living Beings”  was on display in a spacious room. This grand-scale work is comprised of 30 individual hanging scrolls which were originally produced as Buddhist paintings to be hung behind a Shaka (Sakyamuni) triad. Each scroll was quite large and I was lost for words because of its splendor. Most people would probably never get to chance to see the complete collection of 30 scrolls.


Snow, Moon and Flowers by Uemura Shoen
1937  Sannomaru Shozokan
(The Museum of the Imperial Collections)


Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months
by Sakai Hoitsu, Edo period, 1823


After the Rain by Kawai Gyokudo, 1924

When I went outside the gallery, I realized the air was redolent with the sweet scent of fragrant olives which were in full bloom in the museum site.

Walking through the extensive Ueno Park, I found ripe purple beauty berries,

and on my way home by the river, pampas grass swaying in the wind. What a crisp autumn day!

You can see the Part II of the Imperial Collections here.


Sarah Laurence said...

Splendid art indeed! I love those fall leaves – just like Maine. Your photos of Ueno Park are gorgeous too.

☆sapphire said...

Thank you, Sarah for your lovely comment!

I was really amazed how beautiful your Maine is!

Delwyn said...

Hi Sapphire

what exquisite art...lucky you. I hope Poppy is visiting the exhibition.
I am going to have to google these artists tonight... Have you put their surname last?

and your grassy sky is beautiful too Sapphire...
Happy days

☆sapphire said...

Thank you, Delwyn.

I'm sure Poppy-san will like it! I've heard it was very crowded on Saturdays and Sundays so if possible, it would be better to visit on weekdays.

The artists who drew Tigers are
狩野永徳 and 狩野常信.
30 scrolls by 伊藤若冲.
Snow~ by 上村松園.
The last by 河合玉堂.

Unfortunately, most of Eitoku(永徳)'s paintings were burned down or lost in civil wars(16th century). So this one is very precious!

若冲(Jakuchu) loved birds, roosters in particular. His exhibitions have always been very popular in Japan.

As for 松園(Shoen), the themes of her paintings are often based on Japanese classics such as Genji, Ise, Manyo and myths. The left one is based on Ise and the right, Genji. I'm going to write a little about 松園(Shoen)'s paintings.

There were 2 famous 玉堂(Gyokudo)s. The artist in this post is Kawai Gyokudo. I like his works very much!

Rouchswalwe said...

Oh my goodness! Has it been 20 years already?
The Jakuchu scrolls are superb. His birds have a life to them ... one is certain that he had love for them in his heart and in his brush. The scroll of underwater creatures is arresting ... arigatou Sapphire!

zoe said...

what a gorgeous post, all around! i was not familiar with jukuchu's works, which are beautiful! thank you so much for sharing this experience :)

☆sapphire said...

Hello Rouchswalwe

Jakuchu drew other marine creatures too, for example, octopuses, squids and many kinds of fish in the sea. And fish in the freshwater as well. He loved animals very much!! Thank you for your comment!

☆sapphire said...

Hello zoe

I'm glad that you enjoyed the post!
I guess overseas, Jakuchu is not so famous as Hokusai or Hiroshige. Thank you for your comment!

Aputsiaq said...

Dear Sapphire! Thanks for sharing this fantastic exhibition with us! Amazing...the Japanese culture is so rich in wonderful artists and art work! I think 'Snow, Moon and Flowers' are two gorgeous pieces of work...well, they all are, but I especially like the theme of these two ones!

☆sapphire said...

Hello Aputsiaq

Thanks for your lovely comment.

The artwork "Snow, Moon and Flowers" has one more scroll. I'll put it(snow)on the side bar.
The theme of "Flowers, left" is from one of the stories in the Tale of Ise. A boy(left)and a girl(right) played together in childhood they were good friends and he asked her to marry him in the future and years passed by....
The theme of "Moon, right" is from the Tale of Genji and the pretty lady(left) is considered to be Murasaki-no-ue, the heroine of the tale. Murasaki means purple. Our custom of moon-viewing dates back to the Heian period(about 1000 years ago) when the Tale of Genji was written.

Crafty Green Poet said...

what a lovely selection of artworks, your photo of pampas grass is beautiful too

☆sapphire said...

Crafty Green Poet

Thank you for visiting!!

I really enjoyed seeing the exhibition!

Sylvia said...

Dear Sapphire,

Thank you for this lovely treat. The collection is astounding, and your description has taken me miles away to your amazing place.

Biggest hugs,


☆sapphire said...

Thank you, Sylvia for your warm comment!

I guess the imperial household has played quite an important role as the protector of our traditional art for about 1500 years!

GABRIELA said...

I could hardly wait to go and see the First Part of the Exhibition!!! And....of course...the Ito Jakuchu's works were the core of the whole presentation! A room full of his hanging scrolls! A rare opportunity and I'm so happy it happened in my lifetime! I love the way you are presenting here some of the exhibits. And I DO enjoy your blog!

☆sapphire said...


Thank you so much! I was really amazed at the room full of Jakuchu's works! I was so overwhelmed that I felt a little dizzy. I'm also happy I could see the complete collection of 30 scrolls!! I love Uemura Shoen's works too.