Album of twelve paintings; ink, color, and gold on paper; H. 9 3/4 in. (24.8 cm), W. 13 7/16 in. (34.1 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1999 (1999.161)
Tsukinami-e (literally, “pictures of months in sequence”) illustrate the typical activities and festivals that take place throughout the year. Beginning in the tenth century, the subject became important for secular painting in Japan, and it remained popular among members of all schools of painting throughout the Edo period. This album by an anonymous artist depicts the monthly events integral to the lives of Kyoto citizens: in January, the games and plays of the New Year’s festival; in February, the festival to pray for fecundity in the Inari Shrine; cherry blossom viewing in March; wisteria viewing in April; the Boys’ Festival in May; swimming in the river in June; the Bon festival in July; a sumo wrestling match at the Matsuo Shrine in August; the doll festival in September; the Boar’s Day celebration in October; a winter bonfire in November; and year-end cleaning in December.
The scene representing the ninth month helps to date this charming album to the late seventeenth century. We see court ladies admiring chrysanthemums, the flowers of the season, while indoors others enjoy a party in front of a small table set up for the doll festival. The event known today as the girls’ festival or doll festival has been celebrated on March 3 ever since the date was changed in the early eighteenth century. The autumnal celebration of the dolls, therefore, indicates that the album was produced before that time. These images serve not only as testimonials to the long-lasting tradition of genre painting in Japan but also as valuable historical records of Japanese life.