Sōtatsu: Making Waves

Crossing Mount Tatsuta, Tales of Ise, episode 23

Crossing Mount Tatsuta, Tales of Ise, episode 23Formerly in the collection of Dan Takuma (1858–1932), a Mitsui executive who succeeded company founder Masuda Takashi, this work illustrates a famous scene of marital fidelity. A man travels regularly to Takayasu, beyond Mount Tatsuta, to visit his mistress. Because his wife always sends him off without any emotion, the man suspects that she too is having an extramarital affair. One day he pretends to depart and hides in the bushes to spy on her. When she comes onto the veranda and recites a poem wishing for his safe passage, he is so moved that he remains faithful to her from that day forward.

In another version of this work, the perspective is the husband’s; he is seen from the back, and the wife’s face is visible. The scene on view here depicts the woman from behind, secretly watched by her husband, as she expresses wishes for his well-being. Sōtatsu reversed the perspective, showing mostly the wife’s back and cascading hair and only part of her face. The husband peers through the wooden struts of a fan he holds up to his face. The artist seems to emphasize the man’s voyeurism, lack of trust, and lascivious character.

Crossing Mount Tatsuta, Tales of Ise, episode 23
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Japan, Edo period, early 17th century
Poetry sheet mounted as hanging scroll
Ink, colors, and gold on paper
Gift of the Alliance of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2000.61

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