Japan Gallery New Rotation 10.11

The Momoyama Period: Japan's Golden Age

 

The 16th century in Japan was defined by intense warfare and political intrigue, culminating with the final collapse of the Ashikaga clan that had ruled as shoguns for over two centuries. Around the same time, Portuguese traders introduced firearms, which radically changed military technology, and resulted in the need for significantly improved fortifications for the many warlords who competed for dominance. Castles began to spring up across the land. In fact, the historical period that followed, the Momoyama (1573-1615), takes its name from one of these complexes, Momoyama Castle, built in Kyoto by Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), who rose from a common foot soldier to become the most powerful leader of his generation.

 

The building projects of the Ashikaga shoguns, such as the Golden and Silver Pavilions, were exquisitely jewel-like, manifesting an extremely refined aesthetic matched by the intimate ink paintings that also typified their age. On the other hand, the castles of the Momoyama period were massive structures, both out of strategic necessity and as potent symbols of the authority they reinforced. Together with the buildings they decorated, the aesthetic of paintings changed dramatically: the Momoyama period was characterized by large screens, wall panels, and sliding doors. This new scale encouraged bold designs, rather than fine detail. As expressions of wealth and power, Momoyama paintings were brightly colored with expensive mineral pigments, and above all, gold. During the Momoyama period, Japan turned its attention to the outside world with newfound confidence, and the arts of the time embody international influences ranging from neighboring Korea and China to Southeast Asia, and even farther afield to Europe, through Portuguese traders and Christian missionaries. Foreign influences did not always come about through peaceful means; Hideyoshi's invasions of Korea stand as one of the darkest chapters in world history.

 

After Hideyoshi's death, one of his retainers, Tokugawa Ieyasu, methodically seized military control, until he eventually destroyed the last Toyotomi heir and established Japan's final shogunate, initiating the Tokugawa period (1615-1868). Although the cultural efflorescence of the Momoyama lingered into the 17th century, by the 1630s Ieyasu had banned missionary activities and severely restricted foreign trade through a series of "seclusion laws" (sakoku, literally "locking the country"). Similarly, the castles of the Momoyama period were dismantled as threats to the new government, bringing an end to one of the most dynamic periods in Japanese history.

 

 

 


Kanö Motohide (1551-1601)

Views of Kyoto

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615), ca. 1578-1588

Fan paintings; ink and color on gold paper

Purchase, 1927

(2379, 2380, 2381)

 

The Kanö School likely was derived from a hereditary family of warriors from the Kanö district (modern Shizuoka). In the 15th century they emerged as a painting family working in the formal Chinese style that was popular with the shoguns of the Ashikaga period (1336-1573), and during the following centuries they came to dominate official commissions. Kanö Motohide was a key figure in the school, and served as its head from 1576 to1579, later working for Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) as this warlord reached the pinnacle of his power during the 1580s (around the time these fans were painted). Motohide returned to Kyoto in 1590, and later was commissioned by Prince Toshihito (1579-1629) to decorate the main building (now destroyed) of the Katsura Villa, one of Japan's most famous imperial gardens.

 

Motohide was famous for his large-scale works intended for palaces, government buildings, and Buddhist temples, but he worked in a wide variety of formats. These fans were mounted together on screens, but later dispersed (the Academy has nine of an original 30-60 fans, with others surviving in various Japanese collections, including the Tokyo National Museum). They are considered to be the finest examples of Motohide's work in a smaller, more intimate format.


Kanö Motohide (1551-1601)

Views of Kyoto

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615), ca. 1578-1588

Fan paintings; ink and color on gold paper

Purchase, 1927

(2382, 2383, 2384)

 

The Kanö School likely was derived from a hereditary family of warriors from the Kanö district (modern Shizuoka). In the 15th century they emerged as a painting family working in the formal Chinese style that was popular with the shoguns of the Ashikaga period (1336-1573), and during the following centuries they came to dominate official commissions. Kanö Motohide was a key figure in the school, and served as its head from 1576 to1579, later working for Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) as this warlord reached the pinnacle of his power during the 1580s (around the time these fans were painted). Motohide returned to Kyoto in 1590, and later was commissioned by Prince Toshihito (1579-1629) to decorate the main building (now destroyed) of the Katsura Villa, one of Japan's most famous imperial gardens.

 

Motohide was famous for his large-scale works intended for palaces, government buildings, and Buddhist temples, but he worked in a wide variety of formats. These fans were mounted together on screens, but later dispersed (the Academy has nine of an original 30-60 fans, with others surviving in various Japanese collections, including the Tokyo National Museum). They are considered to be the finest examples of Motohide's work in a smaller, more intimate format.


Kanö Motohide (1551-1601)

Views of Kyoto

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615), ca. 1578-1588

Fan paintings; ink and color on gold paper

Purchase, 1927

(2385)

 


Anonymous

Merry-making Under Cherry Blossoms

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615), ca. 1600

Six-panel screen; ink, color and gold on paper

Purchase, Marjorie Lewis Griffing Fund, 1970

(3711.1)

 


Anonymous

Suit of Armor

Japan, Muromachi period (1336-1573), dated 1346

Lacquer, bronze, brocade, leather, and fur

Gift of Mrs. Lewis P. Rosen in Memory of Her Husband, 1974

(4264.1)


Anonymous

Plantains

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615), ca. 1600

Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color and gold on paper

Gift of Mrs. Charles M. Cooke, 1933

(4151, 4152)

 

The rise of prosperous warlords during the Momoyama period, including the two leading figures of the age, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), resulted in numerous grand building projects. This in turn initiated a golden age for painting, in particular large-scale compositions on the many panels and screens necessary to decorate castles and official halls.

 

The paintings of the Momoyama period are characterized by an unprecedented boldness of design, represented here by a daring arrangement of plantains that spreads across two massively sized screens. Typical for the time is the extensive use of gold leaf for the background, which some scholars have proposed added light to dark castle rooms. Also typical for the Momoyama period is an interest in exoticism, in this case revealed by the plantains, which were better suited for a warm southern climate than the winters of Japan's traditional culture center in the capital of Kyoto.
Anonymous

Scenes in and Around Kyoto

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615), ca. 1611-1615

Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color and gold on paper

Gift of Mrs. Charles M. Cooke, 1932

(3454, 3455)

 

From the late Momoyama period onward, pairs of screens depicting the scenic sites around the capital of Kyoto became popular. Many of the famous places visible on these screens remain iconic images of Japan today, from the raised platform of Kiyomizu Temple and the nearby five-storied Yasaka Pagoda in the upper right of the right screen, to the Golden Pavilion in the upper right of the left screen. The latter is of special interest, since the pavilion survived the destruction of its surrounding temple during the Önin War (1467-1477), only to be burned down by a novice monk in 1950, and the screen allows us to see it in its original form.

 

Dominating the city is Nijö Castle on the left screen, completed by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) in 1603. Built on the site of the original Heian-period (794-1185) imperial palace, this castle was where Ieyasu received from the emperor the title of shogun in the same year, before finally destroying his last rival, Toyotomi Hideyoshi's son Hideyori (1593-1615), over a decade later and initiating the Tokugawa period (1615-1868). This detail makes it possible to date the screens to after Nijö Castle was completed in 1603 and before it was expanded in 1626 for a meeting between the emperor and Ieyasu's grandson Iemitsu (1604-1651), the third shogun of the Tokugawa period.


The Imjin War and Korean Ceramics in Japan

 

From 1592 to 1598, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) conducted a series of military campaigns against the Korean peninsula that resulted in the deaths of nearly 200,000 Koreans, and the abduction of 50-60,000 more, many of whom ultimately were sold into slavery. The war was marked by exceptional brutality, with so many ears and noses cut off the dead and taken back to Japan as war trophies that they formed an artificial hill, called the "Ear Mound" (mimizuka), in Kyoto. As a result of the invasions, Korea suffered widespread famine and disease, while countless cultural treasures were lost.

 


Among the Koreans forced to go to Japan were skilled technicians, including potters, who brought with them new technologies. These Korean potters transformed the Japanese ceramics industry, discovering clay suitable for porcelain on the island of Kyushu and initiating a renaissance in Japanese ceramics during the Edo (1615-1868) and into the Meiji (1868-1912) periods. Korean ceramics at the time of the Japanese invasions were characterized by punch'ong ware, which developed from the celadons of the preceding Koryŏ period (918-1392) into a distinctive ceramic form with a clear celadon glaze and decoration in white slip and iron oxide, often with stamped patterns. The aesthetic of punch'ong ware had a profound influence on Japanese wares, ranging from the earthenware vessels used for the tea ceremony to the 20th-century Japanese "Folk Art"  (Mingei) movement, which through such figures as Bernard Leach (1887-1979) became one of the most iconic representations of Japanese art for the international public.
Anonymous

Bottle

Korea, Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910), 15th century

Punch'ong glazed stoneware with white slip decoration

Gift of Wayne Morioka in Honor of the Honolulu Academy of Arts' 75th Anniversary, 2002

(11852.1)


Anonymous

Jar

Korea, Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910), 16th century

Punch'ong glazed stoneware with white slip and iron oxide decoration

Purchase, 1965

(3353.1)


Anonymous

Bowl

Korea, Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910), 15th century

Punch'ong glazed stoneware with white slip decoration

Gift of Damon Giffard, 1951

(1209.1)


Anonymous

Bowl

Korea, Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910), 15th century

Punch'ong glazed stoneware with white slip decoration

Gift of Lt. General Oliver S. Picher, 1958

(2521.1)


Anonymous

Bowl

Korea, Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910), 15th century

Punch'ong glazed stoneware with white slip decoration

Gift of Lt. General Oliver S. Picher, 1963

(3142.1)


Anonymous

Bowl

Korea, Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910), 15th century

Punch'ong glazed stoneware with white slip decoration

Gift of Lt. General Oliver S. Picher, 1958

(2520.1)


Anonymous

Royal Placenta Jar

Korea, Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910), 15th century

Punch'ong glazed stoneware with white slip decoration

Gift of Mrs. Charles M. Cooke, 1927

(106)

 


The ruling Yi family of the Chosŏn period preserved the placenta from royal births in special jars like this one, which where then buried in auspicious locations. In addition to a variety of stamped and hand-drawn patterns in white slip, the jar bears inscriptions indicating the place name Hapch'on and the government office in charge of items for official burials. The lugs on the top would have been used to secure a cover, which is now missing. Intended for use in an official function by the royal family, this jar is an example of the highest quality punch'ong ware produced before the Japanese invasions that devastated Korea at the end of the 16th century.

 

 


Anonymous

Jar

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615)

Shigaraki glazed stoneware

Gift of Mr. George H. Kerr, 1958

(2507.1)


Anonymous

Dish with Mule and Rider Design

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615), early 17th century

Oribe glazed stoneware

Purchase, 1967

(3486.1)

 

Furuta Oribe (1544-1615) was one of the leading tea ceremony masters of the Momoyama period and served as an advisor for Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), later becoming the teacher of Tokugawa Hidetada (1579-1632), the second shogun of the following Edo period. However, Oribe was implicated in a scandal against the shogunate and forced to commit suicide.


Oribe promoted an elaborate, elitist aesthetic for tea ceremony wares, and further distinguished between the ranks of guests at tea gatherings. He favored ceramics with rich green and brown glazes on a cream-colored background, often boldly decorated. Under the prominent patronage of the Tokugawa shogunate, this style dominated the tea ceremony during the early Edo period. The green glaze of this dish is typical of Oribe wares. At the same time, the shape probably derives from foreign ceramic dishes produced by the Si Satchanalai kilns in Thailand (called sonköroku wares in Japanese), which were widely imported into Japan starting in the Momoyama period (1573-1615) and influenced the developing styles of tea ceremony ceramics at that time.
Anonymous

Bowl

Thailand, Sukhothai period (13th-15th century), 15th century

Si Satchanalai glazed stoneware

Gift of Lt. General Oliver S. Picher, 1977

(4621.1)

 

While Thai ceramics were widely exported throughout island Southeast Asia during the 15th and16th centuries, they apparently were unknown in Japan until Japanese traders were exposed to them in the Philippines during the Momoyama period. Ironically, by this time the Si Satchanalai kilns where this bowl was made were already in decline and no longer producing the superb celadons for which they had become famous. However, once they were indirectly introduced from the Philippines, Si Satchanalai wares quickly became popular in Japan and influenced the development of local ceramics, particularly those used for the tea ceremony.

 


A comparison of this bowl with the Oribe dish nearby suggests that the dish took its shape, and probably its green color, from a Thai prototype such as this. At the same time, Oribe wares favored a deeper green, often as part of a color scheme including brown and cream, and the motif of a scholar riding a donkey in the center of the Oribe dish is distinctly Japanese (although ultimately of Chinese origin).


Anonymous

Tray

Japan, Momoyama period (1573-1615), late 16th century

Oribe glazed stoneware

Gift of Renee Halbedl in Memory of Mr. and Mrs. Philip E. Spalding, 1969

(3549.1)


Anonymous

Tea Caddy

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), 18th century

Seto glazed stoneware

Gift of Mrs. Charles M. Cooke, 1933

(3823)


Anonymous

Jarlet

Thailand, Sukhothai period (13th-15th century), 14th-15th century

Glazed stoneware

Gift of Carl and Jobita Zimmerman, 2002

(12216.1)

 

In addition to celadons like the bowl on display nearby, the Thai kilns at Si Satchanalai produced large numbers of jarlets, many with characteristic brown glazes, which were exported in large numbers throughout Southeast Asia. Large numbers of these jars have been discovered in the Philippines, including the present example. These Thai wares in turn were exported from the Philippines to Japan during the Momoyama period, where they affected the development of many ceramic shapes that are considered characteristically Japanese today.

 


For example, a comparison of this jarlet with the tea caddy, a distinctive form of ceramic for storing the powdered matcha tea used in the traditional tea ceremony, suggests that the two forms are closely related, and that both the shape and the rich brown glaze of the traditional tea caddy might, in fact, have been influenced by Thai jarlets like this one that were being imported into Japan at exactly the same time domestic Japanese wares were gaining favor among tea ceremony enthusiasts.


Anonymous

Saddle

Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), dated 1630

Lacquer, wood, lead, silk, and suede

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stephan McClaren in Honor of the Academy's 50th Anniversary, 1977

(4468.1)


Anonymous

Pair of Guardian Lions

Japan, Kamakura period (1185-1333)

Wood with traces of pigment

Gift of John Gregg Allerton, 1953

(1692.1, 1693.1)

 

 

 

 

 

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