This poetry card bears the lunar calendar date “11th year of Keichō , 11th month, 11th day.” It is one of sixteen extant cards dated in this way, presumed to have been part of a thirty-six card ensemble. That was the day courtier Konoe Nobutada (1565–1614) retired from the prestigious post of imperial regent (kanpaku). Nobutada, a renowned calligrapher, Kōetsu, and Shōkadō Shōjō (1584–1639) were known as the three “great brushes” of the Kan’ei era (1624–44).
The cherry blossoms painted by Sōtatsu do not exactly accommodate the autumnal poem from the Shinkokin wakashū (New Anthology of Poems Past and Present), circa 1205–10. However, the poem by Kamo no Chōmei (1155–1216) does evoke isolation and private reverie, corresponding to the cherry blossom’s brief fluorescence and suggesting the swift decline of power and life’s ephemerality.
Poem Card with Underpainting of Cherry Blossoms
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637), calligrapher
Poem card mounted as a hanging scroll
Ink, gold, and silver on paper
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975, 1975.268.59