Thirty-Six Poets

Artist: Sakai Hōitsu 酒井抱一 (1761-1828)
Frame maker: Hara Yoyusai (1772-1845)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, early 19th century
Ink, color, and gold on paper
H x W (image): 150.3 × 162.4 cm (59 3/16 × 63 15/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screen (two-panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, poet
Provenance research underway.

In the early eleventh century the poet Fujiwara no Kinto (966-1041) selected and anthologized the works of thirty-six notable poets--thirty-one men and five women--who were active in Japan from the seventh through the early eleventh century. The poetry produced by this grouping came to represent the pinnacle of Japanese aesthetic sensibility. From the thirteenth century, paintings featuring idealized images of the poets, together with texts of their representative poems, began to appear.

Hoitsu's presentation of the august assemblage is full of comic reference, reflecting an Edo-period (1615-1868) penchant for parodying staid classical subjects. Hoitsu portrays only thirty-five playfully caricatured faces and postures. The missing poet, Saigu no Nyogo, is not seen in probable deference to her imperial status; her presence behind the white curtain is presumed.

Hoitsu modeled this painting on a similar work by Ogata Korin (1658-1716). The frame surrounding the screen is signed by Hara Yoyusai (1772-1845), a lacquer artist who frequently collaborated with Hoitsu.

Published References
  • Keiko Kawamoto. Nihon byobue shusei. 18 vols., Tokyo, 1977-1982. vol. 5: pl. 68.
  • untitled article. no. 186 Tokyo. fig. 59.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 87, vol. 2: p. 178.
  • Ryu Murakami. Metal Works. no. 463 Tokyo. p. 39, fig. 54.
  • Alan Pipes. Foundations of Art + Design., 1st ed. London. p. 238.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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