Detached segment from an illustrated handscroll of Heike kindachi soshi

Historical period(s)
Kamakura period, 13th century
Handscroll segment mounted as a hanging scroll; ink on paper
H x W (image): 26.2 x 90.3 cm (10 5/16 x 35 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. Sylvan Barnet and Mr. William Burto in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Japan, kakemono, Kamakura period (1185 - 1333)

To 1976
Takashi Yanagi, Kyoto, to 1976 [1]

From 1976 to 1998
Mr. Sylvan Barnet and Mr. William Burto, Cambridge, MA, acquired from Takashi Yanagi in 1976 [2]

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Mr. Sylvan Barnet and Mr. William Burto in 1998


[1] According to Curatorial Note 2, Ann Yonemura, July 8, 1998, in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Takashi Yanagi
William Burto 1921-2013
Sylvan Barnet 1926-2015


Imbued with literary quality and evocative beauty, the painting and calligraphy of this handscroll segment embody the subtle aesthetic ideals fostered in the Japanese imperial court. Heike kindachi soshi recalls the former glory of the Taira family, which was defeated by the Minamoto family in the late twelfth century.

A complete version of the narrative does not survive. In this segment, a solitary courtier plays a flute from a moonlit veranda. The painting is delicate in execution and faithful to the descriptive and emotional nuances of the text, which describes a courtier's visit to the imperial palace where late one night, a poet named Kokiji brought him flowers. Thereupon, the courtier, leaning against a pillar and splendidly dressed in blue and crimson, played his flute so beautifully that the empress dowager was overcome with emotion. A cloudless moon was shining, and the dew on the ground looked white with its reflection.
Rendered in ethereal ink lines and ink wash, the work is an important early example of Japanese painting in the hakubyo manner, a mode that continued for several centuries.

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 274-275.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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