Sōtatsu: Making Waves

Boats on the Sea

Boats at SeaWhile these screens resemble the Freer’s Waves at Matsushima, they portray a more general topic—“pine shores.” This yamato-e(traditional Japanese painting) subject developed during the Muromachi period (1333–1573). Traces of thirty-six poem sheets (shikishi) indicate that the screens were once covered with waka poetry (thirty-one-syllable verses). This explains the overly expansive depiction of clouds, which provide blank spaces for the poetry. Other screens attributed to Sōtatsu feature shikishi pasted over a large representational image. These screens both bear the signature Sōtatsu Hokkyō and the round vermilion seal Taiseiken typically associated with the artist; here, however, the seal impression differs from the standard. The “Matsushima” theme was in the repertoire of seventeenth-century painters, and the Tawaraya atelier may have produced this work. However, that is the extent of any relationship to the Waves at Matsushimascreens, which are not generic but have a highly specific celebratory intention.

Boats on the Sea
Studio of Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Japan, mid-17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens
Ink, colors, gold, and silver on paper
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, L2015.33.2.1-.2

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