Sōtatsu: Making Waves

Dragon and Tiger

Dragon and Tiger

These two scrolls were originally part of a set of twelve paintings pasted onto a pair of six-panel folding screens. They work effectively as a pair, because dragons and tigers have been coupled as painting subjects in Japan since ancient times. This composition pits them glaring at each other—a heavenly dragon looking upward and the earthbound tiger downward. The dragon is stylistically similar to the much larger versions seen in the Dragons and Clouds screens (displayed nearby), where the same bulging eyes and use of tarashikomisuggest a recognizable Sōtatsu style.

Although there is no signature, both scrolls are pressed with the round vermilion relief seal I’nen, which was used by the Tawaraya atelier. Dragon and Tiger thus is usually understood to be a studio production. Its exceptional quality makes it difficult to say whether it is by an outstanding disciple who mastered the Sōtatsu style or by the master himself.

Dragon and Tiger
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Japan, early 17th century
Pair of hanging scrolls
Ink on paper
Idemitsu Museum of Art, Tokyo

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