Tatars Playing Polo and Hunting

Artist: Kanō Jinnojō 狩野甚之丞 (active 1610s -1640s)
Historical period(s)
Early Edo period, ca. 1610-1640
Ink and color on paper
H x W (each): 153 x 348 cm (60 1/4 x 137 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screens (six-panel)

Early Edo period (1615 - 1716), hunting, Japan, polo, sport
Provenance research underway.

"Tartar" is the term loosely applied to the nomadic peoples who once inhabited China's north and northwest borders. They overran the Chinese Northern Song (960-1127) empire early in the twelfth century.  Known as exceptionally skilled horsemen, they are often shown playing polo or hunting. Representations of Tartars by Chinese artists date to the thirteenth century. These images codified the nomads' distinictive features and customs and were copied by other artists during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Japanese painters were inspired by the Ming paintings but elaborated on the Chinese models by applying sumptuous color and decorative gold.

Equestrian Tartars became a particularly popular subject in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Japan. Taste for the foreign and exotic, manifest as well by a demand for paintings of Iberian missionaries, merchants, and diplomats, may account for the sudden interest in the Tartar theme. Some suggest that the Japanese military incursions on the Korean peninsula in 1592 and 1597 may also have inspired the theme.

Published References
  • Zaigai hiho [(Japanese Paintings in Western Collections]. 3 vols., Tokyo. vol. 1: pt. I & II, pp. 34-35, pl. 20.
  • Keiko Kawamoto. Nihon byobue shusei. 18 vols., Tokyo, 1977-1982. vol. 4: p. 159.
  • untitled article in Bijutsu Kenkyu [Journal of Art Studies]. vol. 2, no. 147 Tokyo. pl. 9.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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