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  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics: Raku Tea bowl, known as "Summer Festival Music."  View from side, showing profile of the piece.
    Japanese Ceramics: Raku Tea bowl, known as "Summer Festival Music." View from side, showing profile of the piece. by attributed to Raku Sonyu

    Raku ware tea bowl ("Chawan") named "Summer Festival Music." The bowl is attributed to Raku Sonyu (1664-1716), the fifth generation of the Kyoto Raku family of potters. A study in understatement, note the gentle undulation of the rim of the bowl and the slight convexity of the contour of the side of the bowl, almost inviting one's hand to fit it. The surface of the piece is typical of the black raku glaze, with a soft, slightly lustrous quality and a slightly pitted surface, giving it a highly tactile quality and one that almost resembles that of a river-worn rock, calling to mind the stricture that a good ceramic piece should be like an object found in nature, rather than an object deliberately made.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics:  Jar with lid, Kakiemon-type Arita ware.
    Japanese Ceramics: Jar with lid, Kakiemon-type Arita ware. by unknown

    Porcelain lidded jar with overglaze enamel decoration. Kakiemon-type Arita ware from Saga Prefecture, Kyushu. (Avery Brundage Collection, B60P1206 )

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics: Ewer, Arita ware.
    Japanese Ceramics: Ewer, Arita ware. by unknown

    Porcelain ewer with overglaze enamel decoration. Kakiemon-type Arita ware. (The Avery Brundage Collection, B65P59)

  • Thumbnail for Portrait of Kichijo-ten
    Portrait of Kichijo-ten

    Although the temple painting was created for religious worship, the full cheeks and small red lips of the subject suggest strongly feminine features.

  • Thumbnail for Townsend Harris
    Townsend Harris

    Townsend Harris, first government representative of an Occidental power to Japan. He remained in Japan from 1856 to 1862.

  • Thumbnail for Go Set
    Go Set

    Go set decorated with maki-e lacquer on wood.

  • Thumbnail for Kosode
    Kosode

    The kosode was the principal Japanese outer robe from the sixteenth century on, having previously served as outer garment for the lower classes and as undergarment for the upper classes. From the kosode evolved the modern kimono. Kosode literally means small sleeves," a reference not to the length or width of the sleeves themselves but to the size of the wrist openings. This kosode is a representative example of the Kanbun style of kosode decoration that was particularly popular during the Kanbun era (1661-1673) of the Edo period. On the back of this kosode, large overlapping maple leaves form the arc across teh shoulders to the right hem, with the red figured satin (rinzu) background exposed on the left." - Kawakami Shigeki

  • Thumbnail for Katana Blades
    Katana Blades by Masashi daijo Tadahiro , Masahiro , Tsuda Sukehiro

    Leftmost: This blade, somewhat shorter than the typical katana, was forged by Musashi daijo Tadahiro. Blades from school he founded, known as Hizen to, are characterized by a fine itame (woodgrain) surface and temper lines that are either straight (suguha) or have irregular clove" shapes (choji midare), as on this blade. Middle: Echizen no kami Sukehiro was apprenticed to the Osaka swordsmitch Tsuda Sukehiro; he was adopted by his teacher and inherited his name. At first Sukehiro made temper lines with irregular ""clove"" shapes (choji midare), like those of his teacher, but eventually he pioneered a beautiful and distinctive style of temper line reminiscent of the shape of ocean waves known as toran midare, as can be seen on ths example. Rightmost: (Momoyama Period) This fine example of Masahiro's work, typical of the Momoyama-period blade, is wide with a slight curve and large point. It has an itame (woodgrain) surface texture, and the temper line consists of small undulat

  • Thumbnail for Kotsuzumi Drum and Storage Box
    Kotsuzumi Drum and Storage Box

    The kotsuzumi is a percussion instrument shaped much like an hourglass, with a thin middle and two flaring ends. Drumheads of leather mounted on iron rings are fitted on either end with the two drumheads connected by hemp cords. It is held with the left hand, placed on the right shoulder, and struck with the fingers of the right hand. This set is decorated with a spring design of rafts with cherry blossoms in gold maki-e on a black lacquered ground. This kotsuzumi is accompanied by a storage box decorated witha design in maki-e on black lacquer of running water and maple leaves. The design allude to many poems from the Heian period regarding the Tatsuta Riber, famous for the autumn foliage along its banks." - Kawakami Shigeki

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Usobuki
    Noh Mask: Usobuki

    Kyogen, the comic drama in which such subjects as old tales and the problems of real peopple are treated with humorous actions and witty dialogue, uses some masks, though the number of mask types is much mor limited than for Noh. In contrast to the serious quality of Noh masks, those for Kyogen are characterized by their humorous nature, with amused expressions, or by deliberate exaggeration and distortion. Usobuki represents the latter type. The name implies several possible meanings, including to feign innocence, to whistle, or to shape the mouth as though blowing a fire. The mask is worn by both human characters and the spirits of fragile creatures such as the moth, mosquito, or cicada. - Matshushima Ken

  • Thumbnail for Kariginu or Noh "Hunting Robe"
    Kariginu or Noh "Hunting Robe"

    The kariginu, literally hunting robe," was originally an informal jacket worn by men of the court class in the Heian period. In the medieval era it was adapted by elite samurai as their most formal garment. It is thought that the kariginu first used in Noh performances were those actually worn by samurai aristocrats. In the Edo period the kariginu was established as a Noh costume, and these kariginu for the stage were made larger than the kariginu for daily wear from which they had originated. in Noh, the kariginu is regarded as the most imortant outer garment for male roles." - Kawakami Shigeki.

  • Thumbnail for Distant view of Mt. Asama from Urawa stationq
    Distant view of Mt. Asama from Urawa stationq by Eisen Keisai

    Keisai Eisen was born in Edo, the son of a calligraphy artist. He was apprenticed to Kikugawa Eizan and studied traditional painting before becoming a printmaker. Throughout his career, Eisen’s work was productive and varied. Book illustrations and prints were his first commissioned works. Early on, he achieved lasting fame for his bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women), and both contributed to and edited the Ukiyo-e ruiko (History of Prints of the Floating World) one of the few surviving sources of information-rich material on printmaking art and artists in Japan. At times, he struck partnerships with other artists of his age, such as his collaboration with Hiroshige, which resulted in a series of landscape prints entitled The Sixty-nine Stations on the Kiso Highway. Eisen also released many surimono (privately issued prints), shunga (erotic prints), and some landscape pieces. In addition to his career as a printmaker, Eisen pursued other sources of income. A self-described hard-drinker who humbly titled his version of Japanese print history Mumeio zhuihitsu (Essays by a Nameless Old Man), Eisen was also the manager and proprietor of a brothel for a time. Today, however he is most famous for his portrayals of the beauties of old Japan. As a result of the success of Hiroshige’s “Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido, publishers commissioned many artists to do series in similar veins. Eisen both collaborated with Hiroshige and executed his own series of images from the Kisokaido (Great Western Highway).

  • Thumbnail for The Minister of the Right, Minamoto Yoritomo Setting thousands of Cranes Free in Front of Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura to Receive the Blessing of a Pious and Virtuous Life
    The Minister of the Right, Minamoto Yoritomo Setting thousands of Cranes Free in Front of Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura to Receive the Blessing of a Pious and Virtuous Life by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    The son of a silk dyer, Utagawa Kuniyoshi was apprenticed to the printmaker Utagawa Toyokuni I. whose other pupils included Toyoshige and Kunisada. Unlike his master, who specialized in actor portraits, Kuniyoshi excelled in depicting historical scenes and events along with celebrated warriors. Like many of his contemporaries, the artist experimented widely, producing prints of everything from landscapes to erotica. Kuniyoshi’s first published work was a set of book illustrations released in 1814, although his name remained obscure for several years until his publication of a print series depicting 75 heroes from Japanese lore and legend. When prints of actors and beautiful women (bijin-ga) were banned by the Japanese government in 1842, the Japanese middle class became enthusiastic supporters of Kuniyoshi’s seemingly inoffensive historical prints. In 1843, the artist released a satirical triptych print criticizing the Shogun, launching an official investigation that resulted in the destruction of Kuniyoshi’s woodblocks and unsold prints, as well as an official censure. The print, however, remained popular with the middle class. This prints was most likely commissioned by the official named in its title or done to court the favor of said official. The long title and large size of the print were meant to denote the official’s importance.

  • Thumbnail for The Courtesan Miyakoji of Tamaya Brothel and her Attendants in Edo-cho Itchome Street
    The Courtesan Miyakoji of Tamaya Brothel and her Attendants in Edo-cho Itchome Street by Kikugawa Eizan

    From the Seiro Meikun Zoroi (A Set of Famous Courtesans from Green Houses) series. Though he studied with his father, many consider Kikugawa Eizan to be the best of the late followers of Utamaro. Known for his highly elegant (furyu) bijin-ga the artist continued a stylish elegance that many of his contemporaries eschewed for a more earthy realism. Curiously, he all but ceased ukiyo-e printmaking in the 1820s, a full forty years before his death. Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After an increasing number of censorship laws were passed to limit the production of prints of famous courtesans, thought to corrupt the morals of the citizens of Japan, many artists turned to domestic images of mothers and daughters or women with servants and generalized pictures of the latest fashions in order to satisfy the demand for bijin-ga and skirt the laws.

  • Thumbnail for The courtesan Yaegiri of the Oginoya Brothel and a portrait of the priest Jakuren
    The courtesan Yaegiri of the Oginoya Brothel and a portrait of the priest Jakuren by Utagawa Hiroshige

    One of the most well known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. Jakuren was a poet and a Buddhist monk was instrumental in compiling the Shinkokinshu (New Collection of Ancient and Modern Waka), around 1205 – 1206, which included thirty-five of his own works. The poem card at the top of this image depicts an image of the poet and his poem which was number eighty-seven in the well-known Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poems by 100 Artists), a collection of tanka (five line poems of 31 syllables, arranged as 5, 7, 5, 7, 7).

  • Thumbnail for Two women with infant
    Two women with infant by Utamaro Kitagawa

    The dominant ukiyo-e artist of the late 18th century, Utamaro is as famous for his legendary life as for his unsurpassed images of courtesans and famous beauties of his day. Bijin-ga (images of beauties) might be of actual contemporary and historic women or of an idealized type of beauty specific to a time and region. Courtesans in particular were usually depicted in the latest and most elaborate fashions of the day. After an increasing number of censorship laws were passed to limit the production of prints of famous courtesans, thought to corrupt the morals of the citizens of Japan, many artists turned to domestic images of mothers and daughters or women with servants and generalized pictures of the latest fashions in order to satisfy the demand for bijin-ga and skirt the laws.

  • Thumbnail for Ken Tenju hanging scroll, corner view
    Ken Tenju hanging scroll, corner view by Tenju, Ken

    Japanese Edo period hanging scroll with vertically-oriented painting and a brown brocade mounting. The image area is 28 cm x 187 cm and depicts the landscape of a Nanga school with the scene of a mountain and hut to the left, a river to the right, a bridge in the foreground, and an inscription to the upper right.

  • Thumbnail for Pillow (used by ladies)
    Pillow (used by ladies)

    Cushion resting on a wooden base. This type of pillow can be seen in Japanese prints and paintings of the Edo era (1603-1868 AD), so it is identified as “Japanese,†which differed from Chinese pillows largely made of ceramics. It was used by ladies who rested on the back of their neck to avoid messing up their elaborate hairdos. The drawer at the bottom of the wooden base may have contained personal belongings, including jewelry at some point. Its condition is fine, but the colors of the cushion have faded (the design and pattern on the cushion remain visible).

  • Thumbnail for Hakone from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue)
    Hakone from Fifty-three Famous Places (Gojûsan tsugi meishozue) by Utagawa (Andô) Hiroshige

    Woodblock print. 13¾" x 9". Paper was issued in the Tokugawa Period (1615-1868) in standard sizes, most prints being in the oban format of 15 x10. The smaller size of this print thus indicates cutting. Condition good with some slight damage and staining in center of the print. Professor Mandancy’s letter identifies the work as one of the Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaidô (Tokaidô gojûsan no uchi), that is the set of 1833-34. Actually the print is from the 1855 set, as properly noted in her original list. The first step in making an Ukiyo-e woodblock print was an artist (eshi) painted a composition in ink on paper. The sketch (or later a copy) was pasted down on a plank of wood (usually cherry) and cut away to create the key or outline block. A separate person from the artist, called the cutter (hori), did the carving. A third person -- the rubber (suri) -- took the carved block and, placing it face up, moistened the printing surfaces by quickly brushing on water and glue. Color and ink were then applied by hand and pre-moistened paper placed onto the wet surface. The rubber then took the print by rubbing from behind with a baren (pad of rope covered by bamboo). It is usually presumed that the key block was used to make the patterns for the color blocks. In old views of Ukiyo-e, the key block, being closest to the sketch by the hand of the artist, was considered the most important. Authenticity, therefore, was mostly a matter of comparing lines in a questioned print to those in published, established, or otherwise accepted examples. If there was a match, the print was “genuine,†and often labeled as such on a tag on the back. The print of Hakone is, moreover, very useful for teaching how to look at lines in Ukiyo-e because those forming the border around the image show gaps and are thin, indicating that the key block was old and worn when the print was taken. The lines in Shinagawa are stronger, an important point in determining the work’s better condition.More interestingly, there is a worn area in the right hand corner of Hakone, where the printed line appears to have been scraped off and then drawn back in. Such repairs are common in Ukiyo-e and a much more obvious example is in the print of Shirasuka in the Union College Collection, by the same artist and from the same series. Shirasuka clearly has been repaired. For instance, there is a hole in its lower half of the print that has been filled in and colored to match the surrounding areas. In the lower right hand corner of Shirasuka, there is a place where the line has been obviously scraped off and then redrawn.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido - Sakanoshita, Station 49
    53 Stations of the Tokaido - Sakanoshita, Station 49 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Large white mountain range with travelers looking out appreciating the view. Sakanoshita was a dangerous part of the highway due to bandits. Hiroshige nevertheless focuses on the scenery and the enjoyment of the pilgrim travelers.

  • Thumbnail for 53 stations of the Tokaido: Yoshida - Station 35
    53 stations of the Tokaido: Yoshida - Station 35 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. People passing over a bridge with heavy loads and one woman on a horse. Large section of water with boats in front of the city of Yoshida, high rising buildings in the distance.

  • Thumbnail for 53 Stations of the Tokaido - Goyu, Station 36
    53 Stations of the Tokaido - Goyu, Station 36 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Bare-chested porters walking over bridge in the post town of Goyu, carrying heavy goods for on poles.

  • Thumbnail for Sixteen Sword Guards - Japanese term, tsuba
    Sixteen Sword Guards - Japanese term, tsuba

    Sixteen individual sword guards made of various materials.

  • Thumbnail for Sword Guard (Tsuba) with Octopus and Ape - reverse side
    Sword Guard (Tsuba) with Octopus and Ape - reverse side

    Sword guard (tsuba), signed Yoshinaga(?),and dated 1862. Curatorial files identify the work as in the Garyuken line of Nara Variation. Copper and brass. Excellent condition. This sword guard was part of a group of 20 in a three-layered lacquered wooden box. All are of high quality and this one was singled out only because of its large size and unusual decoration. The guard bears the image of an octopus attacking a monkey. The image is typical of late Tokugawa Period in being showy, with copper and brass highly polished and looking like gold. It is also a bit odd and unsettling. The sword guard has the quality that Gerald Figal calls “monstrous†(Civilization and Monsters, Spirits of Modernity in Meiji Japan, Durham and Loudon, 1999). As Figal points out, “monstrous†is a fair description, not only of Art in 19th c. Japan, but also of this chaotic, disturbed time. No less than the paintings or prints of Hokusai or the helmet discussed above, then, this sword guard captures well the spirit of its time.

  • Thumbnail for Page from an unidentified book showing a Heian era court lady and child on a veranda
    Page from an unidentified book showing a Heian era court lady and child on a veranda

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink and colors on paper. This book illustrates an unidentified courtly tale of the Heian era, possibly the Tale of Genji, in a conservative, Tosa-school style. It makes an interesting contrast to the illustration of the Tale of Genji, in a more contemporary Ukiyo-e style with bolder colors, by Utagawa Kunisada.