Gathering to Celebrate Old Age

Tomioka Tessai 富岡鉄斎 Japanese

Not on view

In this work Tomioka Tessai (1837–1924), foremost among late Japanese literati painters, depicts a Shōshikai 尚歯会, a Gathering to Celebrate Old Age. Such gatherings see a senior figure invite elderly friends, often seven, to paint, recite poetry, play musical instruments, and drink wine outdoors. The members of Tessai’s gathering relax in a ravine, beneath towering peaks and crashing waterfalls. The men are divided into three groups in the foreground and middleground. At lower left, a younger male attendant can be seen preparing to serve the men wine. Nearby, three men have gathered around a fourth man who plays the zither. One of the men holds a wine cup and rests his elbow on a bundle of scrolls, suggestive of other pursuits. Another group of men and young helpers gather around a friend writing on a scroll with a brush. Three more figures above examine a scroll painting hung from a pole. The subject has its origins in Tang Dynasty China, where legend holds that the celebrated poet and statesman, Bai Juyi, held such a gathering in 845. The practice was introduced to Japan shortly thereafter, with the first recorded gathering organized in 877 by the government official Minabuchi no Toshina (808–877).

Gathering to Celebrate Old Age, Tomioka Tessai 富岡鉄斎 (Japanese, 1836–1924), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, Japan

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