A fluffy black-and-white musk cat pauses beside a blooming red camellia on a late winter day, doing its best to ignore the agitated titmouse on a willow bough above him. Although not native to Japan, musk cats (jakōneko), or civets, were known in Japan through early Chinese paintings that were imported beginning in the 1200s. These nocturnal, feline mammals became a favorite subject of artists affiliated with the formidable Kano school, established in Kyoto in the late 1400s. A large square seal at lower right names the painter of thiswork as Uto Gyoshi, an obscure figure who is thought to have been affiliated with a satellite Kano studio in the eastern castle town of Odawara.
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Artist:Uto Gyoshi (Japanese, active second half of 16th century)
Period:Muromachi period (1392–1573)
Date:mid–late 16th century
Medium:Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Dimensions:Image: 29 15/16 × 18 5/16 in. (76 × 46.5 cm) Overall with mounting: 66 1/8 × 24 1/8 in. (168 × 61.3 cm) Overall with knobs: 66 1/8 × 25 7/8 in. (168 × 65.8 cm)
Credit Line:Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015
The animal shown here, with a long snout, black-and-white fur, and bushy tail, is known in Japanese as a jakō neko, or musk cat, and in China is considered an auspicious creature endowed with both male and female sexuality; perfume extracted from the glands of the musk cat was once popular among the European aristocracy. Perched on a pendulous branch, an agitated titmouse, as if attracted by the scent, chirps busily in its direction. Clear, strong brushstrokes in dark ink define the slender willow boughs, the leaves and flowers of the camellia, and details of the foreground—the small tufts of bamboo and grass and the rocky ground. The physical features of the musk cat and its fur are meticulously rendered in fine brush lines. The artist's seal, which reads "Uto Gyoshi no in" (Seal of Uto Gyoshi), appears at the lower right corner.
The name "Uto Gyoshi" sounds more like an official rank than a personal name. And, in fact, it is the Chinese term for an associate-censor-in-chief (youdu yushi) at the Censorate established by the first emperor of the Ming dynasty in 1382. However, there is no record that this rank or office ever existed in Japan, nor is it known why this artist came to choose such an unusual-sounding name. Indeed, his very identity is shrouded in mystery. Uto Gyoshi's name, like that of Shikibu Terutada (cat. no. 59), has been confused with those of other artists, including Shikibu. The following discussion summarizes a recent study by Gen Sakamoto that attempts to unravel the scholarly tangle enmeshing this artistic personality.
Uto Gyoshi's name does not appear in the earliest book on Japanese artists, the Tansei jakubokushū, by Kano Ikkei (1599–1662), but in 1672, the anonymous author of the Bengyokushū initiated the practice of including Gyoshi's seal under the name of the artist Kano Gyokuraku, yet another obscure painter. Kano Gyokuraku had been included in Ikkei's book, and he is described in all later Edo sources on painters as a student and a nephew (or a niece) of Motonobu's (cat. no. 71), the august leader of the Kano clan. According to Ikkei, Gyokuraku served under Hōjō Ujimasa (1538–1590), the fourth ruler of the Go-Hōjō clan in Odawara, near Kamakura. Uto Gyoshi was thus possibly a member of the Odawara Kano school (as distinct from the metropolitan Kano school, active in Kyoto). In the sixteenth century, Odawara was the seat of Go-Hōjō power and the epicenter of cultural activity in eastern Japan (see cat. no. 59). Some Kano documents claim that the main branch of the family came from nearby Izu Province (Shizuoka Prefecture) and that Motonobu's branch came from farther east, in Kazusa Province (Chiba Prefecture). Both regions were under Go-Hōjō control.
In his Honcho gashi of 1678, Kano Einō (1631–1697) caused even more confusion: he quoted Kano Tan'yu (1602–1674), the most powerful leader of the Edo-period Kano school, as having said that Gyokuraku used the sobriquet Maejima Soyu. Thus, three names—Uto Gyoshi, Kano Gyokuraku, and Maejima Soyu—came to be identified with one and the same artist. Muddying the waters still further, Einō noted that Gyokuraku paintings without seals were easily mistaken for works by Motonobu. Some modern scholars claim that Motonobu's painting style was transmitted to the Odawara area and that it was closely reflected in the work of Gyokuraku. Unfortunately, these statements were made before even a single painting with Gyokuraku's identifying marks had been discovered, except for one bearing a doubtful signature. Stylistic analysis of paintings that bear the seal of Maejima Soyu reveals that his works differ considerably from those with the "Uto Gyoshi" seal, and these two artists should therefore be treated as separate entities. It is perhaps best, at this point, to consider all three names as belonging to different individuals and to establish a stylistic oeuvre for each one.
The majority of paintings bearing the "Uto Gyoshi" seal are in ink monochrome with the bird-and-flower theme. They are executed in bold, clearly defined brushstrokes, sometimes combined with a soft, painterly ink wash. Pictorial elements are arranged in a strongly asymmetrical manner, and they reflect the unmistakable influence of the Shōkei school, which dominated the Odawara area where artists such as Shikibu Terutada were active. Certain technical features—for example, the meticulous application of colors within the carefully drawn outline of petals and foliage—recall the work of Shōkei and of Shikibu. Two other paintings of musk cats should be mentioned here: a diptych of hanging scrolls in the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya, and a single hanging scroll in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. As examples of the bird-and- flower genre by Uto Gyoshi, these works are unusual in that, like the present painting, they are polychrome and more detailed and meticulously executed than this artist's work in ink monochrome.
The jakō neko, though not a species native to Japan, was nevertheless known among the Japanese as early as the Kamakura period through imported Chinese paintings by such Southern Song masters as Mao Yi (fl. 2nd half of 12th century), and the subject became popular with Kano artists. As is also true of the work of Shikibu Terutada, polychrome paintings by Uto Gyoshi combine the style of Motonobu with the influence of Shōkei in such details as clearly outlined foliage and flowers carefully filled in with saturated pigments. Although Uto Gyoshi's identity remains uncertain, it appears that he belonged to a group of Kanto artists who combined the techniques of these two artists, as did members of the so-called Odawara Kano school
[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]
 G. Sakamoto 1992.  For Tansei jakubokushū,, sec Sakazaki Shizuka 191~, pp. 92 3- 50; Bengyokushū is not published.  On the Go-Hōjō family and its cultural activities, see Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History 1989.  Ueno Kenji 1986, pp. 114–24.  For Honchō gashi, see Kano Einō 1985, p. 393; see also Nakamura Tanio 1968, pp. 38–46.  Kano Einō 1985, p. 336.  For example, Yamashita Yūji 1985, p. 26.  Nakamura Tania 1971, fig. 139.  Tanaka Ichimatsu et al. 1962, no. 13; and Nakamura Tanio 1971, pl. 22, fig. 138.  Tokyo National Museum and Kyoto National Museum 1983, pl. 41.  Mao Yi's paintings of this subject arc listed in early catalogues of Chinese imports. For the Butsunichian kumotsu mokuroku, see Kamakura-shi Shi Hensan Iinkai 1956; Kundaikan sōchōki, in Sadō koten zenshū 1967, vol. 2; and lnryōken nichiroku, in Dai Ni hon Bukkyo zensho 1970–73, vols. 75–78, the entry for the thirtieth day of the fifth month of the eighth year of the Eikyō era (1436).  Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum 1986, p. 57.
Signature: Uto Gyoshi no In
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
New Haven. Yale University Art Gallery. "Bright Color, Bold Ink: Diversity in Momoyama Art," February 23, 1988–April 4, 1988.
Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "Jewel Rivers: Japanese Art from The Burke Collection.," October 25, 1993–January 2, 1994.
Santa Barbara Museum of Art. "Jewel Rivers: Japanese Art from The Burke Collection.," February 26, 1994–April 24, 1994.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Jewel Rivers: Japanese Art from The Burke Collection.," October 14, 1994–January 1, 1995.
Kyoto National Museum. "The Kano School in the Muromachi Period," October 15, 1996–November 17, 1996.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 30–June 25, 2000.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Post-renovation opening exhibition: Japanese galleries," April 11, 2006–January 17, 2007.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–May 14, 2017.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japan: A History of Style," March 8, 2021–April 24, 2022.
Murase, Miyeko, Il Kim, Shi-yee Liu, Gratia Williams Nakahashi, Stephanie Wada, Soyoung Lee, and David Sensabaugh. Art Through a Lifetime: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection. Vol. 1, Japanese Paintings, Printed Works, Calligraphy. [New York]: Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, , p. 102, cat. no. 129.
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