AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 541

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Session 541: Elite Patronage and Viewership of Japanese Art in the Age of the Toyotomi-Tokugawa Transition - sponsored by Japan Art History Forum

Organizer: Tomoko Sakomura, Swarthmore College, USA

Discussant: John T. Carpenter, Metropolitan Museum of Art, USA

The demise of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1598 opened the doors for a contest of political and cultural authority between the remaining Toyotomi camp headed by his successor Hideyori and the emergent Tokugawa Ieyasu. After becoming shogun in 1603, Ieyasu steadily built his power base and dealt a decisive blow to the Toyotomi with the Osaka Siege of 1615. Considering the nearly two decades of tense political negotiation—-as well as the earlier and later decades in which first the Toyotomi and then the Tokugawa enjoyed supremacy—-this panel examines the art, architecture and material culture produced under the patronage of a variety of institutions. The papers address the specific ways that warrior regimes, regional daimyo, the imperial court, and religious institutions each engaged with the personages and events of this period of political transition. By way of focused case studies, each panelist will examine how this transition impacted the production, reception, function, and meaning of objects. Topics include: the commemorative role of imperial procession screens (Lillehoj); Hideyori’s demonstration of his cultural authority through calligraphy (Sakomura); the identity shifts of a celebrated tea utensil through time (Watsky); the meaning and context behind a seventeenth-century commission of a thirteenth-century religious text (Takahashi); and the concept of lacquered architecture in relation to a regional shrine built in direct emulation of Hideyoshi’s Toyokuni Shrine in the capital (Schweizer).

Two Grand Celebrations of Toyotomi-Tokugawa Might
Elizabeth Lillehoj, DePaul University, USA

There are two large paintings that capture elaborate processions organized by the leading warrior clan of the day: one procession was sponsored by the Toyotomi and the other was sponsored by the Tokugawa. The first, Screens of the Imperial Excursion to Jurakutei (Sakai City Museum), pictures the 1588 arrival of Emperor Goyozei at the castle of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The second, Screens of the Enthronement Procession of Tofukumon’in (Mitsui Bunko Art Museum), shows a young Tokugawa daughter’s 1620 entrance into the court as the new empress. The public spectacles represented here communicated significant messages to all in attendance—-from regional military lords to the viewing Kyoto populace—-claiming a close affiliation between the current warrior regime and the imperial family. Both pairs of screens lack documentation, but we can speculate based on visual analysis about their date and production. Both were likely finished soon after the events they picture and were commissioned by wealthy individuals, perhaps a warrior administrator or the warlord himself. Given the extensive visual information the two screen pairs provide, it is reasonable to call them significant historical documents, although not necessarily accurate accounts. The two pairs are sometimes categorized as “record paintings” (kiroku-ga), but their main purpose was to celebrate the purported accord between the warrior clan in power and the current leaders of the imperial court. They thus participate in a selective construction of memory unique to this era of change.

From Common Container to Meibutsu to Sacred Object, the Life of Tsukumo
Andrew Watsky, Princeton University, USA

Sixteenth-century records tell us that a fifteenth-century tea man, Murata Shuko, recognized a previously unappreciated Chinese jar for its quality and appropriated it for use within the elevated context of chanoyu. Thus began the shifts in identity that made the vessel one of the most admired meibutsu in sixteenth-century Japan, a chaire bestowed the name Tsukumo. Tsukumo travelled, as most such objects did, from one Japanese owner to another (migrating among merchants and warriors), from the provinces to Kyoto, all the while increasing in monetary value. Its biography took several unusual turns, including purported disappearances and rediscoveries at several Momoyama junctures, until it ended up (or so the documents indicate) in the possession of Hideyoshi and then his son Hideyori. Perhaps Tsukumo’s most surprising turn of all, however, occurred in 1615, which brought catastrophe to the world of acclaimed tea objects with the Tokugawa destruction of Osaka Castle, where the Toyotomi’s famed chanoyu horde was stored. Period documents record Ieyasu’s search for Toyotomi treasures in the ruins of Osaka Castle; Tsukumo was one of a number of smashed chaire reputedly recovered in this hunt, and both written and physical evidence seems to corroborate its repair and delivery to Ieyasu, Ieyasu’s subsequent gifting of it to its repairer, and – in a shift as profound as Shuko’s initial chanoyu appropriation – its early Edo reinvention as sacred object. In the light cast by Tsukumo, this paper will examine issues of appropriation, authenticity, naming practices, and ontological shifts in Japanese objects.

Patronage and Viewership in Art of the Hokke Sect: Rissho Ankoku-ron by Hon’ami Koetsu
Nobushiro Takahashi, Ritsumeikan University, Japan

To raise issues related to the patronage and viewership of art in the religious context of early seventeenth-century Kyoto, this paper focuses on Hon’ami Koetsu’s transcription of Rissho Ankoku-ron (On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land), a polemic text by Nichiren. Renowned as a skillful calligrapher, Koetsu was also an ardent practitioner of the Hokke sect, which was originally established by the Nichiren in the thirteenth century. Brought up by devout parents, Koetsu also is known to have studied Nichiren’s writings, and created powerful transcriptions of various tracts in his distinctive hand. Rissho Ankoku-ron was originally written by Nichiren in 1260 in response to natural disasters and the threat of invasions. Nichiren submitted the treatise to the regent Hojo Tokiyori, and urged him to follow the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren apparently often lectured on the Rissho Ankoku-ron, and its message clearly had a great impact on Hokke sect adherents in subsequent generations, including Koetsu. In the postscript to his transcription of the Rissho Ankoku-ron, Koetsu notes that it was written in response to the request of the monk Nichigen at Myorenji temple in Kyoto, which had been forced to relocate to make way for the construction of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Jurakutei Palace. This paper introduces evidence concerning whether Koetsu’s version of Rissho Ankoku-ron was intended to be appreciated privately by Nichigen or to be made available to the public. Also, Nichigen’s other activities related to art, and the connection between Koetsu and Myorenji will be raised.

The Rhetoric of Renewal: Lacquered Architecture in Early Modern Japan
Anton Schweizer, Tulane University, USA

The 16th century saw the gradual development of a type of buildings in which all parts of the structural frame, wooden walls, doors, railings and frequently even the floors were coated with an elaborate build-up of lacquer. While the important role of lacquer in the creation of architectural ensembles earned due attention in recent years (Watsky: Chikubushima, 2004), the implications of the aging behavior of the material have not yet been subject to an in-depth analysis. A crucial material point is urushi’s vulnerability to ultraviolet light that makes it unsuitable for permanent use on building exteriors. In my interpretation, this essentially temporal character is a key feature of lacquered buildings that allows them to be considered as monumental votive offerings by their patrons. This paper concentrates on the Osaki Hachiman Shrine in Sendai that was erected in 1607 by the warlord Date Masamune (1567-1636) in direct emulation of the Toyokuni Shrine in Kyoto, Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s spectacular site of posthumous veneration. Drawing on visual and textual sources, I will attempt to reconstruct the connotative field that opened to the contemporary beholder of the building’s lacquered ‘skin,’ which referenced both native and Buddhist notions of renewal and decay, a literary tradition to express beauty in terms of precious materials and radiance, an established color-scheme of black-and-gold, and the concept of building as exertion of legitimate power and manifest commitment to a cult.

Calligraphic Displays: A Poem-Sheet Screen by Toyotomi Hideyori
Tomoko Sakomura, Swarthmore College, USA

Folding screens featuring a number of inscribed poem sheets (shikishi) present an intriguing display of courtly textual culture in a highly visible and physically imposing format. Often featuring select verse from canonical sources such as the first and eighth imperial anthologies Kokin wakashu and Shinkokin wakashu, such screens are symbolically rich displays of classical knowledge and skill in the venerated art of calligraphy. The centerpiece for this presentation will be a pair of screens featuring forty-three poem sheets inscribed by Toyotomi Hideyori (1593-1615), who at age six succeeded the Toyotomi household with the passing of his father Hideyoshi in 1598. The poem sheets’ backdrop, a view of cherry blossoms amid rolling hills, conjures the grand flower viewing and poetry gathering hosted by his father at Yoshino in 1594 at the height of his political dominance. In a significant departure from the norms of inscribing poem sheets, most sheets are signed “Hideyori.” This explicit statement of his own hand, and not of a scribe, is juxtaposed with a few unsigned sheets brushed in the time-honored style of the Shoren’in school of calligraphy. The screen thus offers hints of Hideyori’s education in the courtly arts and his cultural—-and possibly political-—alliances. This presentation seeks to untangle the layers of meaning produced by the screens’ components and considers the implication of Hideyori’s calligraphic display during the Toyotomi-Tokugawa transition.