Portraits of Three Famous Poets: Hitomaro (M) ・Ise (R) ・Komachi (L)

Tosa Mitsuoki 土佐光起 Japanese
Tosa Mitsunari 土佐光成 Japanese
Tosa Mitsutaka 土佐光高 Japanese

Not on view

A trio of Tosa painters—father, son, and grandson—collaborated to create this triptych of imaginary portraits of three of the greatest poets of ancient Japan. In the center scroll, the patriarch of Japanese poetry Kakinomoto no Hitomaro (ca. 660–724), shown in his typical pose leaning on an arm rest with writing accoutrements beside him, was painted by Mitsuoki—the esteemed head of the official painting bureau from 1654 until his death. Lady Ise, in gorgeous court robes, shown in the right scroll, was created by Mitsunari, Mitsuoki’s son. The court lady and poet Ono no Komachi (ca. 825– ca. 900), shown with a water basin before her, is the creation of Mitsutaka, the Tosa master’s grandson. Thus, this magnificent set of poet portraits is not only celebrating the esteemed place of waka (31-syllable court poetry) in Japanese cultural history, even into early modern times, it is asserting that the Tosa school, which had been revived by Mitsuoki, will continue its hereditary lineage into future generations. The triptych format also recalls a triad of Buddhist figures, with Hitomaro seated in the center—like a Buddha—while the standing figures of the female poets Ise and Komachi represent bodhisattavas facing the central icon.

Portraits of Three Famous Poets: Hitomaro (M) ・Ise (R) ・Komachi (L), Tosa Mitsuoki 土佐光起 (Japanese, 1617–1691), Triptych of hanging scrolls: ink, color, gold and silver on silk, Japan

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