Noblemen Viewing the Nunobiki Waterfall, Episode 87 of the Tales of Ise, first half 17th century

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Tawaraya Sōtatsu, one of the founders of the Rinpa School during the early 17th century, was inspired by literary themes and painting styles from Japan's classical past. This album leaf illustrates a scene from the Tales of Ise (Ise monogatari) written around 950 recounting the life and loves of an unidentified gentleman, but probably loosely based on the courtier Ariwara Narihira (825-880). Thirty-seven leaves of this particular album by Sōtatsu and his studio are known. This leaf is the first of two that illustrate episode 87 in which a group of noblemen visit Nunobiki Waterfall, near present-day Kobe. One of the gentlemen, lamenting his low position at court, composed the inscribed poem by an unknown calligrapher:

Which, I wonder, is higher-
This waterfall or the fall of my tears
As I wait in vain,
Hoping today or tomorrow
To rise in the world.
(trans. Helen Craig McCullough)

Sōtatsu portrayed the 10th century court nobles in a traditional manner using fine, even lines and stylized faces. He updated his composition, however, by using a technique known as tarashikomi, in which darker pigments are applied over still-wet lighter colors, resulting in softly mottled, abstract landscape forms.

Noblemen Viewing the Nunobiki Waterfall, Episode 87 of the Tales of Ise
Artist Life
died c. 1640
Accession Number
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

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