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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 Shisendo, upper garden
    Shisendo, upper garden

    Southern portion of the inner (â€upperâ€) garden as seen from the Shisendo. Built by samurai Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672) beginning in 1636. He bacame a scholar and based Shisendo on retreats of mid-T’ang dynasty Chinese poets and scholars.

  • 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 Bridal trousseau
    Bridal trousseau

    A typical Edo-period trousseau centered around three sets of shelves, the zushidana (right), the kurodana (black shelves, center), and the shodana (bookshelves, right). Included are most of the things required for personal use, such as cosmetic items,

  • Thumbnail for Sword Guards II
    Sword Guards II by Matashichi, Hayashi

    Both sword guards were made by Hayashi Matashichi, and are iron with inlaid gold. Upper left-corner: On this flower-shaped iron tsuba are five openwork cherry blossoms. An inlaid gold rope pattern encircles the inner portion, and beyond this in a concentric circle, fine threadlike openwork lines represent mist. Evenly spaced around the scalloped perimeter are four heart-shaped perforations. The blossoms of this powerful work are carved in slight relief, and the gold harmonized well with the color of the iron. Right: the tsurumaru, literally round crane," is a type of dancing crane motif in which the tips of the widely spread wings meet above the head, forming a circular cartouche. This red-tinted black iron tsuba is decorated with the tsurumaru motif in skillfully executed openwork. The eyes are delicately inlaid with gold." - Hiroi Yuichi

  • Thumbnail for Japan's Meiji Emperor
    Japan's Meiji Emperor

    Emperor Meiji after being enthroned in 1867 at the age of fifteen.

  • Thumbnail for Nokan Flutes and Cases for Noh Drama
    Nokan Flutes and Cases for Noh Drama

    Bamboo flute with a mouth hole and seven finger holes. The nokan is the only wind instrument among the instruments used in Noh,and functions as a rhythm instrument.

  • 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 Taiko Drums
    Taiko Drums

    The musical instruments used in Noh performance dating from the Edo era.

  • Thumbnail for Noh Mask: Shikami
    Noh Mask: Shikami

    Shikami is one of the demon masks. His threatening expression, with scoowling eyes and bared fanglike teeht, well conveys his ferocity. Furrows are intensified with red and, as was often done in Noh demon masks to manifest rage, the eyes are highlighted in gold. - Matsushima Ken

  • 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 Daybreak at Nihonbashi Bridge
    Daybreak at Nihonbashi Bridge by Utagawa Hiroshige

    From the Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido series in the Tsutakichi Tokaido edition. One of the most well known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe. Though Hiroshige’s most famous series was called “Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaido,†most editions actually included fifty-five images as the artist executed both the beginning point of the traditional journey, Nihonbashi bridge in Edo, and the terminus of the highway in Kyoto. Here the famous bridge in the center of Edo is bathed in early morning light, representing both a spiritual and a literal beginning of a long journey.

  • Thumbnail for Kana-dehon Chushingura Act IV: Oboshi Yuranosuke display's Hangan's sword
    Kana-dehon Chushingura Act IV: Oboshi Yuranosuke display's Hangan's sword by Eisen Keisai

    From the Kanadehon Chushingura (Model of the Kana Syllabury: the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers) series. Keisei 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. Kana-dehon Chushingura (Model of the Kana Syllabury: the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers) was a popular and frequently performed Kabuki play in the late 18th and early 19th century in Edo. Based on actual historical events from 1701 – 1703, the play tells of forty-seven ronin (samurai without a lord) who seek revenge for the unjust death of their leader Enya-Hangan. Act IV: Enya-hangan commits hara-kiri, while his loyal retainer Yuranosuke vows revenge on Moronao

  • Thumbnail for A courtesan reading a latter beside a paper lantern-parody of Omu Komachi (Parrot Komachi)
    A courtesan reading a latter beside a paper lantern-parody of Omu Komachi (Parrot Komachi) by Eisen Keisai

    From the Nana Komachi (Seven Komachi) series. Keisei 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. The traditional Nana Komachi was a group of stories concerning the mid ninth century poetess Ono no Komachi, one of the six poetic geniuses and thirty-six immortal poets. During the Edo period, however Komachi became a sobriquet of many beautiful women and nana komachi was also used for other bijin-ga series of a variety of seven beauties.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Kodzuka handle with crescent moon and sea waves design
    Japanese Kodzuka handle with crescent moon and sea waves design

    The Edo or Tokugawa era of Japan witnessed an unprecedented flourish of many art forms. The rise of the samurai culture and the political fermentation of this unsettling time brought out with them a modern return of the dolmen style of the art of the Japanese sword. The styles of decoration and the variety of materials used in swordsmiths form a quintessential element of the Japanese literature. Japan's wealth of artistic creation demonstrates its interest in small things and the detailed treatments of them, giving evidence of remarkable skill and taste. For centuries, Japanese swordsmiths devoted their excellence in the art of decoration the samurai's sword-furniture. As part of the warrior's most unseparated possession, the Kodzuka functions as a handle or grip or hilt of the small ko-gatana knives. This iron Japanese Kodzuka is one of the finest representatives of the Edo Japanese decorative sword accessories. The etching style and the abstract delicacy are doubtlessly from the last great master swordsmith Kano Natsuo (1828-1898) or his pupils. The influence of Zen Buddhism of the time eloquently manifests in Natuo's unique choice of motifs and unsurpassed style (from the Otsuki School). His etching style has a distinctive sense of elegance, austere, reserved, and never overflowing. There is an intentional consistency of manipulating a commanding void that dominates the whole composition. The decorative elements employed are conceptual and minimal motifs derived from nature. This Kodzuka has the common plain oblong shape. Its outer face is sophisticatedly designed with a bold relief-etching (takabori or high carving) or raised decoration of a gold crescent moon in the background, partly eclipsed by stylized tidal waves. Some scattered gold dots on top of the waves hint the splashed foam. The Japanese have such great reverence of the force of nature such as big waves (tsunami). On the back of the piece, there are three Japanese characters meaning 'the nature of wild waves' (read from the bottum up). The waves occupy only the bottom right space of the Kodzuka, leaving a powerful void. The abstract and simplicity of this remarkable composition magnificently counteracts and redeems the sense of austerity of the handle. Its balanced yet asymmetrical layout signifies the philosophy of the samurai class: the dynamic between 'configuration/principle' and the 'material energy/vital force'. Objects like this are widely collected as works of art.

  • Thumbnail for Ken Tenju hanging scroll, upper seal
    Ken Tenju hanging scroll, upper seal 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 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 - 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 53 Stations of the Tokaido: Kakegawa, Station 27
    53 Stations of the Tokaido: Kakegawa, Station 27 by Ando Hiroshige (1797 - 1858)

    Color woodblock, 7 X 9 1/4 inches, ink and color on paper. Hiroshige highlights pilgrims, Buddhist monks, and worshipers as they cross the bridge toward the torii entrance to a temple.

  • Thumbnail for Page from the book Toshisen ehon gogon zekku - Illustrated selection of poems of the Tang dynasty, poems of four verses, each verse of five words
    Page from the book Toshisen ehon gogon zekku - Illustrated selection of poems of the Tang dynasty, poems of four verses, each verse of five words by Illustrated by Tachibana Sekiho (active late 18th century)

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink on paper. (The museum owns two additional pages from this book). Because the page has been separated from its book, there is no way to know which edition it came from. This is a good example that demonstrates the widespread and popular interest in ancient Chinese literature among sophisticated, well educated commoners (the readers of books such as these) in the Edo period. There exist several printed books with close variations on this title, including one illustrated by Hokusai. But this is clearly not the Hokusai volume.

  • Thumbnail for Kozuka
    Kozuka

    Sheath for challenge knife (kozuka). Blackened steel and gold. Very fine workmanship and in excellent condition. This metal sheath is one of 16 in a two-layered lacquer box. Making sword fittings (menuki) has been an Art in Japan since the time of the machishu, the 17th c. Kyoto, Osaka, Sakai predecessors of the chonin of Edo (now Tokyo), the latter being the creators of Ukiyo-e. This sheath is of extremely high quality, something true of others in its group. Any are fit for a museum, but I chose this one because its decoration was so amusing. In Japan, the horse is a standard gift to a temple. When a horse is too expensive, a painting of a horse (ema) can be substituted. This knife sheath bears an image of an ema on one side. The square frame of the ema is shown and within it, a monkey holding a long line. The line goes outside the ema over to the other side of the sheath. There, the tethered horse gallops away.

  • 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.

  • Thumbnail for Rakuchu Rakugai - "In and Around the City of Kyoto"- detail of left side
    Rakuchu Rakugai - "In and Around the City of Kyoto"- detail of left side

    Detail of left side of screens done in paper on a wood frame. Right screen of an original pair of 6-fold screens; 67" H. x 142" W. (6 panels) The type originated in the Momoyama period, when they were presented to visiting warlords, to take home as a memento of their visit to Kyoto. This particular example is relatively late for the type, but a good example. The iconography for this particular type of screen pairs is set, and this example follows the program for the right hand screen of the original pair, depicting the colorful floats of the Gion Matsuri (Kyoto’s “signature†festival) in LR, and various Kyoto landmarks, like the Kiyomizudera (a temple with a veranda supported on high pilings) in the upper right.

  • Thumbnail for Rakuchu Rakugai - "In and Around the City of Kyoto" - detail from left side
    Rakuchu Rakugai - "In and Around the City of Kyoto" - detail from left side

    Detail of scene from right screen of an original pair of 6-fold screens; 67" H. x 142" W. (6 panels)The type originated in the Momoyama period, when they were presented to visiting warlords, to take home as a memento of their visit to Kyoto. This particular example is relatively late for the type, but a good example. The iconography for this particular type of screen pairs is set, and this example follows the program for the right hand screen of the original pair, depicting the colorful floats of the Gion Matsuri (Kyoto’s “signature†festival) in LR, and various Kyoto landmarks, like the Kiyomizudera (a temple with a veranda supported on high pilings) in the upper right.

  • Thumbnail for Rakuchu Rakugai - "In and Around the City of Kyoto" - detail
    Rakuchu Rakugai - "In and Around the City of Kyoto" - detail

    Detail from right screen of an original pair of 6-fold screens; 67" H. x 142" W. (6 panels). The type originated in the Momoyama period, when they were presented to visiting warlords, to take home as a memento of their visit to Kyoto. This particular example is relatively late for the type, but a good example. The iconography for this particular type of screen pairs is set, and this example follows the program for the right hand screen of the original pair, depicting the colorful floats of the Gion Matsuri (Kyoto’s “signature†festival) in LR, and various Kyoto landmarks, like the Kiyomizudera (a temple with a veranda supported on high pilings) in the upper right.