The Master Poets

Artist: Sakai Hōitsu 酒井抱一 (1761-1828)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1761-1828
Ink, color, and gold on silk
H x W (image): 137 × 68.1 cm (53 15/16 × 26 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Daoist Immortals, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kakemono, poet, portrait
Provenance research underway.

Poetry composition was so highly valued in the court of the Heian period (794-1185) that imperial requests to select outstanding poets from ancient to modern times were issued as early as the tenth century. The Thirty-six Immortal Poets (Sanju rokkasen) were first selected in the eleventh century. Since the immortal poets had been deceased for generations, imaginary portraits were painted in sequences on handscrolls, wooden panels hung in temples, fans, screens, and sets of game cards. Here, Sakai Hoitsu emulated a composition by the artist Ogata Korin (1658-1716), whose works he studied and admired, by painting thirty-five of the thirty-six immortal poets as if they had all gathered for a party or contest to compose poetry. Hoitsu's playful and humorous poets include noble men and women, Buddhist monks, and the highest-ranking poet, the imperial princess Saigu no Nyo go, who is hidden behind the curtain at the top of the scroll.

Published References
  • Zaigai hiho [(Japanese Paintings in Western Collections]. 3 vols., Tokyo. pt. 1, pl. 71.
  • Shinbi taikan [(Selected Relics of Japanese Art]. 20 vols., Kyoto and Tokyo, 1899-1908. pl. 36.
  • Mayuyama Junkichi. Japanese Art in the West. Tokyo. pl. 266.
  • Castile Rand. The Splendor of Rimpa., January/February 1981. p. 64.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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