Exhibitions/ Art Object

Six Poetic Geniuses

Nakamura Hōchū (Japanese, died 1819)
Edo period (1615–1868)
ca. 1790–1810
Hanging scroll; ink, color, and gold paint on silk
Image: 34 × 14 1/8 in. (86.4 × 35.8 cm) Overall with mounting: 71 5/8 × 19 3/8 in. (182 × 49.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Lent by Feinberg Collection
Not on view
The six figures depicted here were all acclaimed waka poets cited as exemplary in one of the prefaces to the famous Heian period (794–1185) Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern (Kokin wakashū; 905). In later centuries these six would come to be known as the Six Immortal Poets (Rokkasen). At top left is the courtier Ariwara no Narihira (825–880), and beside him is the poet Fun’ya no Yasuhide (died ca. 885). The woman toward the bottom is the renowned beauty Ono no Komachi (active 9th century). At bottom left is Kisen Hōshi (active ca. 9th century), who is said to have lived in Uji. Immediately to the right with his back to the viewer is the high-ranking priest Sōjō Henjō (816–890). Finally to the right is the poet Ōtomo no Kuronushi (active ca. 9th century). The inscription at top conveys one waka poem found in the Kokin wakashū from each of the six poets.

Rinpa artists seem to have enjoyed producing pictures of classical poets (kasen-e), and in this case Hōchū has painted the robes using the favored Rinpa technique of tarashikomi ("dripping in," or mottled pigmentation). As seen here, figures depicted by Rinpa artists tend to have a humorous appearance and rounded forms, with Hōchū’s figures being particularly naive and accessible in style.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection," February 1, 2014–September 7, 2014.