The gold-and-silver images printed on this scroll were previously used as mica-printed designs on Saga-bon productions. In earlier uses, the lions were placed on rondel (circular) shapes. In this scroll, they are removed from the formal design frame and seem to go for an animated romp in the grass. The broad use of portable standardized forms, whether as text type or pictorial descriptions, reflected a creative excitement about a new tool: the impressed stamp. Woodblock stamps could be used in varying ways to suggest a highly musical rhythm.
Kōetsu’s careful aesthetic editing can be seen clearly. Seven poems on the subject of cloth beating (koromo utsu) are included in the circa 1205–10 Shinkokin wakashū (New Anthology of Poems Past and Present). Beating cloth to produce pliability—considered a woman’s task—was associated with autumn, loneliness, and distant or unrequited love. Kōetsu rearranged the canonical sequence of the poems and, perhaps presuming his readers’ knowledge, omitted the authors’ names and titles. As was the case with his other poetry-card and handscroll productions, he was not inhibited by the conventions of line and syllable.
Poems from the Shinkokin wakashū (New Anthology of Poems Past and Present) with the Design of Meishiba Grass and Lions
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637), calligrapher
Japan, early 17th century
Ink, gold, and silver on paper
Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund, 1966.118