Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll
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Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll in Medieval Japan is the first book-length study to focus on short-story small scrolls (ko-e), one of the most complex but visually appealing forms of early Japanese painting. Small picture scrolls emerged in Japan during the fourteenth century and were unusual in constituting approximately half the height of the narrative handscrolls that had been produced and appreciated in Japan for centuries. Melissa McCormick's history of the small scroll tells the story of its emergence and highlights its unique pictorial qualities and production contexts in ways that illuminate the larger history of Japanese narrative painting.
- Published: 2009
- Subject Listing: Asian Studies, Asian Art
- Bibliographic information: 320 pp., 180 color illus., 8.5 x 11 in.
Small scrolls illustrated short stories of personal transformation, a new literary form suffused with an awareness of the Buddhist notion of the illusory nature of worldly desires. The most accomplished examples of the genre resulted from the collaboration of the imperial court painter Tosa Mitsunobu (active ca. 1469-1522) and the erudite Kyoto aristocrat Sanjonishi Sanetaka (1455-1537). McCormick unveils the cultural milieu and the politics of patronage through diaries, letters, and archival materials, exposing the many layers of allusion that were embedded in these scrolls, while offering close readings that articulate the artistic language developed to an extreme level of refinement. In doing so, McCormick also offers the first sustained examination in English of Tosa Mitsunobu's extensive and underappreciated body of artistic achievements.
The three scrolls that form the core of the study are A Wakeful Sleep (Utatane soshi emaki), which recounts the miraculous union of a man and a woman who had previously encountered each other only in their dreams; The Jizo Hall (Jizodo soshi emaki), which tells the story of a wayward monk who achieves enlightenment with the help of a dragon princess; and Breaking the Inkstone (Suzuriwari soshi emaki), which narrates the sacrifice of a young boy for his household servant and its tragic consequences. These three works are easily among the most artistically accomplished and sophisticated small scrolls to have survived.
Melissa McCormick is professor of Japanese art and culture, Harvard University.
"If what we wish for is a book based on first-rate scholarship that proposes a new way of seeing, understanding, and appreciating art within a particular historical and cultural setting, then this book is it."
-Gregory P. A. Levine, University of California, Berkeley
"Melissa McCormick's excellent study covers much material almost completely ignored in Western scholarship, and brings fresh insights even to one who knows the works and the Japanese scholarship."
-Quitman E. Phillips, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Note to Readers
INTRODUCTION: THE SMALL SCROLL AND JAPANESE PICTORIAL NARRATIVE
1 A BRIEF HISTORY OF SMALL SCROLLS
Large Scrolls and Short Narratives
A Theory of the Short-Story Small Scroll
Short-Story Small Scrolls in the Fifteenth Century
The Visual Language of Short-Story Small Scrolls
Small Scrolls as "Picture Books" for Children
Smallness in Late Medieval Culture
2 THE CULTURAL MILIEU OF SANJONISHI SANETAKA AND TOSA MITSUNOBU
The Reception of Miracles of the Kasuga Deity
Mitsunobu, Painting Bureau Director
Poetry Gatherings and Artistic Projects
Buddhist Icons, Mortuary Portraits, and the Court Artist
Mitsunobu, Sanetaka, and the Collaborative Process
Clouds of Mt. Koya: A Small Scroll by Mitsunobu and Sanetaka
3 A WAKEFUL SLEEP: PAINTING THE DREAM TALE
A Muromachi Period Dream Tale
Reworking the Courtly Romance in Text and Image
Visualizing a Karmic Bond
The Female Protagonist and the Romantic Ideal
A Wakeful Sleep and Aristocratic Marriage
4 THE JIZO HALL: A PICTORIAL REBIRTH
The Scroll and the Story
The Shadow Protagonist
An Imperial Painting
5 BREAKING THE INKSTONE: AN ACOLYTE TALE FOR A YOUNG SHOGUN
The Pictorial Language of Breaking the Inkstone
Breaking the Inkstone as an Acolyte Tale
Yoshizumi and Hosokawa Masamoto
Masamoto, Mountains, and Magic
Breaking the Inkstone and Bonds between Men