Art/ Collection/ Art Object

為重本時代不同歌合絵巻断簡 「清原元輔」
The Poet Kiyohara Motosuke, from the Tameshige Version of the Thirty-six Poetic Immortals

Unidentified Artist Japanese, early 15th century
Muromachi period (1392–1573)
early 15th century
Section of a handscroll mounted as a hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Image: 11 1/2 x 10 in. (29.2 x 25.4 cm)
Overall with mounting: 51 3/4 x 14 1/4 in. (131.4 x 36.2 cm)
Overall with knobs: 51 3/4 x 16 in. (131.4 x 40.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto, 2014
Accession Number:
Not on view
This fragment was once part of a handscroll depicting the Thirty-six Poetic Immortals (Sanjūrokkasen) known as the Tameshige version, as its calligraphy was once attributed to the influential poet and calligrapher Nijō Tameshige (1334–1385.

The figure of the poet depicted here, Kiyohara Motosuke, is simply rendered, in sharp contrast to the bold, assertive calligraphy that fills the space above. He turns his head toward his name, inscribed to the right in four large Chinese characters. The poem that follows reads:

Aki no no no
hagi no nishiki o
furusato ni
shika no ne nagara

How I wish I could bring
back to the place I was born
the brocade of bush clover
covering these autumn fields,
as well as the baying of deer.

—Trans. John T. Carpenter
The poet Kiyohara Motosuke (908–990) turns his head toward his name, boldly inscribed to the right in four large characters. The bearded Motosuke directs his gaze upward, as if he has just uttered the words of the poem above him:

Aki no no no
Hagi no nishiki o
Furusato ni
Shika no ne nagara
utsushi teshi kana.

I wish
I could bring home
the brocaded autumn field of hagi,
complete with
the baying of deer.

An important poet, Kiyohara Motosuke was the father of the celebrated woman writer Sei Shonagon (late tenth century), author of Makura no soshi (The PillowBook). Motosuke himself was one of the five compilers of the second imperially sponsored anthology of classical poems, the Gosen wakashū (Later Collection of Japanese Poetry, edited 951; the first anthology was the Kokin wakashū [A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern] of 905). The third imperial anthology, the Shui wakashū (Collection of Gleanings, ca. 1005–11), includes almost fifty of his works.

At first glance the painting appears monochromatic, with dark ink defining the poet's cap, hair, beard, and whiskers. Closer inspection reveals the application of pale colors on the poet's body: ocher on the face and arm and a pinkish tint on the cheeks and lips. Face, hand, scepter, and court costume are delineated by thin, even brushstrokes with little inflection. Tiny black dots for the eyes and a triangle indicating wrinkles under the poet's right eye con­ tribute to the strong sense of realism. In sharp contrast to the simply rendered figure, the calligra­phy filling the space above is bold and assertive. The largest, most heavily inked characters, written with a slow-moving brush, give the poet's name, while the verse is in abbreviated gyoshō (semicursive script). The poem is divided into two groups of twelve and nineteen syllables each with a space between them; although the letters are smaller, they are as clearly written as the poet's name.

This fragment was once part of a handscroll depicting the Thirty-six Immortal Poets (Sanjūrokkasen ). Only one other poet's portrait from this work has been identified: a fragment[1] depicting the royal woman poet Saigū no Nyōgo with calligraphy attributed to Nijō Tameshige (1334–1385), an influential poet and calligrapher who is also thought to have painted kasen-e in the hakubyō technique ("white drawing'' which uses only ink or ink with slight color). The two fragments from the Tameshige version resemble each other in several respects: the poets' names are written in large script; poems are inscribed in two blocks of text— twelve and nineteen syllables respectively, with a considerable space between them; a fluid gyoshō is used for the poems; and figures are rendered in hakubyō-like ink drawing. The calligraphy has been traditionally attributed to Tameshige, but the relaxed, large-scale letters in gyoshō reflect stylistic features of Muromachi-period kana writing of the early fifteenth century. The rather stiff ink drawing of the figure is characteristic of the same period.

Literature: Kyoto National Museum 1992, no. 71
Miyeko Murase. In Miyeko Murase, The Written Image. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2002, cat. no. 26

[1] This fragment is reproduced in Suntory Museum of Art 1986, no. 62.
Sylvan Barnet and William Burto , Cambridge, MA (until 2014; donated to MMA).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Paintings from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection," October 1, 2002–March 2, 2003.

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