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“Butterflies” (Kōchō)

Tosa Mitsuyoshi Japanese
Calligraphy by Reizei Tameyori Japanese

Not on view

The album to which these leaves originally belonged is highly valued for Tosa Mitsuyoshi’s artistry and the calligraphy by eighteen noblemen on uniquely decorated papers with gold and silver and stenciled designs. Ishikawa Tadafusa (1582–1650), a daimyo in service to the Tokugawa shoguns, commissioned the work. Its overall opulence and scenes of an idyllic Rokujō estate and childbirth made it appropriate for inclusion in a bridal trousseau.

Lady Murasaki’s spring quadrant at the Rokujō estate is at its peak here, with cherry blossoms and yellow kerria flowering in profusion. Into this paradisal setting, female attendants arrive in a dragon-headed boat from the autumn quadrant of the Umetsubo Empress (Akikonomu). The next day, Murasaki sends page girls costumed as birds and butterflies to the empress’s sutra reading.

“Butterflies” (Kōchō), Tosa Mitsuyoshi (Japanese, 1539–1613), From an album of eighty paired paintings and calligraphic texts; ink, color, and gold on paper, Japan

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