Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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見立琴碁書画屏風
Parody of the Four Accomplishments

Artist:
Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807–1891)
Period:
late Edo (1615–1868) or Meiji (1868–1912) period
Date:
second half of the 19th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink and color on gold leaf on paper
Dimensions:
Overall (each screen): 47 1/2 x 112 1/2 in. (120.7 x 285.8 cm)
Classification:
Screens
Credit Line:
Fletcher Fund, 1951
Accession Number:
51.89.1, .2
Not on view
This painting is inspired by one of the most celebrated works of Japanese genre painting: a work known as the Hikone Screen. Illustrated here are the “Four Accomplishments” necessary for well-cultivated gentlemen in ancient China—the musical instrument qin (Japanese: koto), the board game weiqi (Japanese: go), calligraphy, and painting. The Four Accomplishments were a favored painting subject beginning in the Muromachi period (1392–1573) but here appears as a parody—for instance, writing a love letter (or poems) instead of calligraphy.

Zeshin’s reinterpretation, more than two centuries after the original, reconstructs some of the mysterious feel of the Hikone Screen by arranging meaningful-looking figures engaged in various pursuits within the same space. Nevertheless, the eye-pleasing impression has been attained by a careful compositional arrangement in which elements are ordered in a pyramid-like shape toward the center, and by the use of a variety of colors, from vivid to subtle, contrasting with the plain gold background. A few versions of this screen by Zeshin exist, each with distinct variations of the figures and setting.
Signature: .1: Lower left in black ink: Zeshin
One seal in red: Zeshin; Tairyūkyo

.2: Lower right in black ink: copied after an old painting, Zeshin.
Two seals in red: Zeshin, Tairyūkyo
Ithaca. Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. "The Arts and Crafts of the Meiji Period," April 16, 1980–June 29, 1980.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Resonant Image: Tradition in Japanese Art (Part Two)," April 27, 1998–September 27, 1998.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of Japan," 1998.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "No Ordinary Mortals: The Human Figure in Japanese Art," 2007–2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ukiyo-e Artists' Responses to Romantic Legends of Two Brothers: Narihira and Yukihira," March 27, 2008–June 8, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japanese Mandalas: Emanations and Avatars," June 18, 2009–November 30, 2009.

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