Calligraphy of Poems from the ‘Shin-Kokin Wakashu’ on Printed Patterned Paper

By Hon'ami Koetsu



Artist By Hon'ami Koetsu
Period Momoyama - Edo period, 17th century
Materials and techniques Handscroll, ink・gold and silver on paper
Size 34.1×907.0


This long scroll measuring nine meters is decorated with beautiful designs of plum blossoms, wisteria, bamboo, peony, and ivy printed in gold and silver using woodblocks, and inscribed with twenty-one poems chosen from the "Shin-Kokin Wakashu". The paper is of exceptional quality and has the traditional pine needle design on the back. On the paper seams are seals of the paper craftsman, Soji, and at the end of the scroll is a seal reading "Koetsu". Koetsu's brilliant calligraphy integrates naturally with the bold painting, and the work as a whole displays his great originality and genius for design . Paper decorated with mica were imported from China and were already in wide use in the Heian period for calligraphy. Koetsu has here revived that sense of beauty in a more modern and refined manner by decorating the paper with these designs. Calligraphy is done in a decorative style, using dark and light ink and brushstrokes of various thickness. Hon'ami Koetsu (1558-1637) was an artist active in the Momoyama and early Edo periods, talented in many arts, but particularly famuous for calligraphy and pottery. In 1615, he received a grant of land northwest of Kyoto called "Takagamine" from the shogun, Togugawa Ieyasu, where he founded an artistic community. He first studied Shoren-in style calligraphy under the prince-abbot Son'en, but later created a new style and became one of the three master calligraphers of the Kan'ei period. This work was probably executed between 1605 and 1614. As to pottery, he often made raku teabowls, which are highly treasured today. He also designed beautiful lacquerware to be crafted by others. In his time, he seemed to have been a leader, something close to an art director.