AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 750

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Session 750: Reimagining the Past in the Present: Issues of Refashioning, Iconicity, and Visuality in Early Modern Japan

Organizer: Julie Nelson Davis, University of Pennsylvania, USA

This panel considers the ways in which subjects from the past were reworked for painting and related formats for a new audience in early modern Japan. These four case studies demonstrate how much the artists were relying upon viewers to appreciate the refashioning of these associations, and how this practice participated in a larger discourse on the history of art. In the first paper, Ota discusses how Maruyama Ôkyo’s painting of Arashiyama, from the handscroll Pastimes and Amusements of the Four Seasons of the 1770s, re-presented a place originally associated with autumn into as a celebrated site for spring. Although ema (votive paintings) had long had religious functions, their purpose shifted at Naritasan, as Snow proposes in the second paper, to commemorate and advertise a famous kabuki actor lineage, a significant alteration to the function of these works. Stripping subjects from the past, and moving them into the context of the erotic functioned as another kind of reworking for a new audience, as Davis argues in her interpretation of Kiyonaga’s Scroll in a Sleeve. Closing out the panel, Mintz considers the ways in which subjects and styles established in painting were altered for another medium — lacquer — and how that change in medium and context pointed to a new interpretation of the past.

Seasonal Transitions: Arashiyama’s Refashioning as a Springtime Meisho
Pauline A. Ota, DePauw University, USA

This paper examines representations of Arashiyama, a famous place or meisho located in the western hills above Kyoto. Since classical times, Arashiyama had been known for the beauty of its maple leaves in fall; however, by the early modern period, visualizations of Arashiyama in spring far outnumbered those in autumn. What caused this shift in seasonal focus? Concentrating on Maruyama Ôkyo’s (1733-95) “Arashiyama” painting from his two handscroll set, the Pastimes and Amusements of the Four Seasons of the 1770s, Ota traces his reconceptualization of Arashiyama as a scenic site for cherry blossoms, beginning with the interaction between Noh drama and an elite painting atelier and concluding with the influence of the travel industry. Arashiyama’s fame originated in poetic representation by aristocrats, but in the early modern period, pictorialization of this famous place became linked not only to its role as a tourist attraction, but also to Kyoto’s dual identity as the guardian of the classical past and the center of new cultural production arising from all levels of society. In short, Arashiyama’s refashioning as a springtime meisho suggests an appropriation of the classical by non-elites, who imbued representations of the site with fresh meanings.

As Gods and Mortals: Ichikawa Danjûrô in Ema at Naritasan
Hilary K. Snow, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, USA

In this paper, Snow documents the ways in which the ema (votive painting) format shifts from a religious to a popular context, in another form of adapting past precedent. Through a study of the ema at Naritasan, Snow will interrogate the ways these works became objects associated with popular culture and Kabuki; in doing so, they supported the needs of the Ichikawa Danjûrô lineage of actors. The Danjûrô actors had a strong connection to Naritasan both as worshippers at the temples and through popular beliefs that associated them with the god Fudô. Depictions of the actors on ema were displayed in ema halls at Naritasan and became part of the secular pilgrimage activities at the temple. Snow will discuss the importance of the paintings as not only expressions of religious devotion but as serving to market and promote the actors and their plays.

‘Like the Brocade of a Fluttering Sleeve’: Kiyonaga, the Pillar Print, and the Sode no maki
Julie Nelson Davis, University of Pennsylvania, USA

In her consideration of the Sode no maki (Scroll in a Sleeve), Davis will engage the ways in which a work of erotica (shunga) appropriated subjects from literature and painting for another audience and viewing practice. After placing this unsigned work in the career of Torii Kiyonaga, Davis will reconsider what the object’s material and format implies about its production and its reception. The paper will further examine the implications of the shift of subjects from a “classical” context into the erotic, as well as from painting to print and from Kyoto to Edo.

The Working Image: Exploring Hara Yoyusai’s Sketchbooks and Lacquers
Robert M. Mintz, Walters Art Museum, USA

Robert Mintz will conclude the presentation of papers with a brief exploration of the Edo-period sketchbook of Hara Yoyusai. Among the book's fragmentary and imaginative images are a wide range of familiar traditional designs and close studies of famous works by the painters of earlier generations. The examination then turns to some of the surviving lacquers that emerged from Yoyusai's studio to explore the role played by the sketchbook in planning and executing decorative designs. Through this discussion the sketchbook is identified as the locus where Yoyusai engaged in a kind of translation that conveyed imagery from earlier paintings and other sources into the world of decorative lacquer production during the early nineteenth century.