Exhibitions/ Art Object

Man’s Informal Robe with the Thirty-six Poetic Immortals

Taishō period (1912–26)
early 20th century
Silk, stenciled and paste-resist dyed
Overall: 50 3/8 x 49 5/8 in. (128 x 126 cm)
Credit Line:
John C. Weber Collection
Not on view
Representations of the Thirty-Six Poetic Immortals harken back to a literary canon established by the courtier Fujiwara no Kintō (966–1041). When portrayed in the handscroll format, individual poets—in distinctive poses, and with recognizable attributes—are separated from one another by inscriptions of their poems. In contrast, Rinpa artists gathered these isolated, iconic luminaries into a single scene, a convention followed in this informal man’s robe. The visually complex composition was produced through a dyeing process that initially involved using a stencil through which a rice-paste resist was applied, creating thin white outlines around most figures. Colors were then added to accentuate the presence of five poets in particular—notably, one of five female poets, who occupies a prominent position at the upper center of the back of the garment. Her figure, however, is slightly obscured by the men that surround her.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art," May 26, 2012–January 13, 2013.