Muromachi-Momoyama Era Sesshin Tokan Sage on Tiger
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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Paintings: Pre 1700: Item # 1122517
Fremont, CA 94536
The momoyama era was a unique period for Japanese art. Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the ruler of Japan of the time preferred lavish decorations with gold and at the same time the simple rustic pieces that were used in tea ceremony. For art, many of the lords were competing with each other in owning an antique painting, calligraphy, or tea ceremony implement to show off their wealth and preferences. Sometimes the lords would commission artists trained in the lineages of the past to create similar works to decorate their halls and rooms with.
The piece presented is done by an artist of the name of Sesshin. Whether Sesshin Tokan, the direct disciple of Sesshu had done the piece or a similar Sesshin from a latter era is unknown. (Sesshin Tokan was mentioned in a record for inheriting the handbook of painting that Sesshu brought home from Ming China and passed it on to his disciples around 1550-1570) However, there are elements that lead to the conclusion that the work was done during the 16th century or if later, the early part of the 17th century.
One determining factor is the paper. During the muromachi period and momoyama periods, the technology to produce larger sized paper was not developed and for artists to use large sized paper; pieces of smaller sized paper were cut and glued to the paper to create the size required by the artist.
Another is the use of color on the painting. At first the piece appears to be done with just sumi ink. Observing it more closely, there are slight traces of color on the face of the human figure. Many paintings done from the 14th to the 16th centuries naturally will loose their color over time and with certain paintings, sometimes will appear more monochrome.
The piece has gold embellishments on the top area of the painting and on the chest of the tiger and may have been added later in the mid 17th century (possibly during the Keicho era) where many paintings and screens from the 16th and early 17th centuries have gold paint added due to the popularity of using gold in art (the Keicho era was similar to the baroque era of European Art during the 17th century).
The painting comes with a traditional letter of authentication done in 1929 praising the painting of its skillful use of the brush and ink. In addition, the letter mentions that it resembles elements from the school of Sesshu Toyo.
Scroll is mounted using 17-18th century brocades and the mounting comes from the 18th century or so. However, the condition of the piece is not great, but with proper conservation and restoration the piece can be restored so it can last for the next 150 or so years.
Dimension to come.