Treasures of the Morikami

Original Exhibit Date: April 16, 2002 through July 8, 2002

The Morikami’s collections reflect the museum’s mission to focus on objects that help generate an understanding of the culture of Japan, particularly the Japan of the time periods during which the Yamato colonists and George Morikami lived; ie. 1868 to the present era.

The original Treasures of The Morikami exhibit displayed objects reflecting the scope of the major areas in our collections, including Japanese sculptures, paintings, and printings dating from the Edo Period (1600–1868) to the present, architectural ornamentation, tea ceremony utensils, and related objects.


1) Pair of Lion Statues (Shishi)

Sculpted lions as guardian figures are often placed alongside the main approaches to Shintō shrines. A practice that originated in China with the placement of stone lions on the approaches to palaces. In the Seto area of central Japan, long a production center for ceramics, the practice arose of giving small ceramics guardian lions to shrines as votive figures. This delightful pair is an example.


[box]2) (Nushi) Sōfu Teshigahara (1900 – 1979)

One magatama- or comma-shaped member and one similarly curved member standing on a rectangular footed stone base. The curving pieces are cypress wood clad in copper and brass. The entire sculpture is entitled “Nushi”.

Partly in reaction to the devastation of the Japanese urban landscape from bombing during World War II Teshigahara took the notions of creation, birth, renewal, and the emergence of order out of chaos as major themes in his work from this time. Because of an early interest in the Kojiki, the 8th century compilation of national myths, much of his art, whether flower arrangements, sculpture or calligraphy, was expressed in imagery drawn from Japan’s mythic past. “Nushi” is an example. The title, carrying connotations of ‘lord’ or ‘guardian’ is a suffix appended to the names of ancient culture heroes such as Okuninushi no Mikoto and Shironushi no Mikoto, whose exploits are described in the Kojiki and who were credited with opening the land and making it habitable for early Japanese. The two curving forms resemble magatama, the ancient comma-shaped jewels that even today confer legitimacy to an emperor’s reign as part of the imperial regalia, emerge from the obdurate stone like young shoots from the ground.[/box]

[box]3) Decorative Beam-End in the Form of a Kirin

The kirin is a mythical animal of Chinese origin, dragon-like in appearance but combining features of several creatures, both real and imaginary. This carved architectural ornament depicts only the kirin’s fore-body in a compact manner dictated by the dimensions of the structural members of the building it adorned. Its most prominent characteristic is its dragon’s head, the only part borrowed from that creature. In addition the kirin’s body and limbs are those of a deer, represented here by the bifurcated hooves of the fore-legs that are tucked up under its lower jar. With its single horn and vaguely equine form, the kirin is sometimes compared to that horned creature of Western myth, the unicorn. The kirin, though, also has the mane of lion, as understood in East Asia, while flames issue from its haunches. On this ornament the mane is handled typically like that of shishi, the fanciful East Asian depiction of the lion, dominated by its tight curls; the kirin’s ears are also the dog-like variation usually given to shishi. Below this curly mane, tongues of flame can be seen darting rearward.

This piece is probably from a structure associated with a Shinto shrine. Structural elements of shrines came to be sculpted in this manner during the Edo Period (1600-1868) after the resplendent example of the Tōshōgu shrine and mausoleum of the first Tokugawa shōgun, Iyeyasu (1542-1616). The complex was completed in 1646. Although no local shrines built after Tōshōgu could claim the same extravagance of decoration, the motifs selected for their ornamentation closely followed those employed at Iyeyasu’s mausoleum. Favored were shishi, dragons, baku (elephant-like creatures of Chinese myth said to devour bad dreams), and kirin, used for sanctuaries, gates, worship halls (haiden) and other structures, if they existed (most local shrines consisted of no more than two sanctuaries alone). Ornaments such as this served as the ends of horizontal beams that passed through supporting posts or appeared to. In fact, they were attached to the side of a post opposite the point of contact with the actual beam, only appearing to be an extension of the beam.[/box]

[box]4) Ewer, Tatsuzo Shimaoka (b. 1920)

A common characteristic of the work of Tatsuzo Shimaoka is its cord-marked surfaces for which the potter is especially known. Shimaoka adopted cord-marking (Jōmon) from the pottery of Japan’s Jomon Period (c. 10000-c.300 BCE), named by archeologists for its similarly marked earthenware, but the technique probably has personal significance for Shimaoka as well. His father was an artisan who made his living braiding silk cords for use with Japanese clothing. Shimaoka uses braids the elder Shimaoka made for him as well as rope wrapped around wood dowels.

To create patterns Shimaoka rolls a braid or dowel over the still-pliable surface of a vessel, then applies a white clay slip to fill the impressions. After wiping away the excess slip, he applies a clear glaze overall. Shimaoka uses the term suji to identify cord-impressed patterns that appear as the parallel striations of variable thickness on this example.[/box]

[box]5) ZeZe Ware Square-Shouldered Tea Caddy (Katatsuki Cha-ire) for Tea Ceremony, signature: Yōen’en zo

The tea ceremony, or Chanoyu (literally, ‘hot water for tea’) is a highly ritualized means of preparing and drinking tea in the company of guests. Tea ceremony has a number of rules of etiquette that give it form as a ceremony and provide a framework for an aesthetic experience touching all of the senses. The rules also form a moral system shaping the relationship between host and guest that Japanese carry beyond the tea room as well. Although not a ceremony in the religious sense, chanoyu grew out of the association of tea with Zen Buddhism, and is often seen as a form of Zen exercise. The tea used, called matcha, is in a powdered form first introduced from China at the same time as Zen, an about the 12th century.

Generally speaking, the type of tea ceremony performed depends upon its degree of formality. More formal ceremonies require so-called ‘thick tea’(koicha) that has been prepared from dark green leaves sheltered from sunlight. In the formal gathering, the host adds three scoops of the powdered matcha to a small amount of hot water and “kneads” the tea to a smooth consistency. Water is added according to the number of guests, since all guests share from the same bowl, a practice derived from original ritual of tea practiced by Zen monks.

Containers for the powdered tea used in the koicha gathering are ceramic cha-ire, of which this is an example. Such tea caddies are derived from Chinese models; the earliest were imported Chinese containers for medicines, tea or cosmetics. Japanese cha-ire were first produced at Seto in the 16th century, while several other kiln sites, including Zeze, began specializing in their production by the 17th century.

Esteem for the ceramic cha-ire has always been high among tea connoisseurs; scholar Ryoichi Fujita has asserted that until quite recently, when the tea bowl began to usurp its position, the cha-ire was regarded as the most important piece in the tea room. During the 16th century, a period of endemic warfare, cha-ire were prized tokens of esteem bestowed upon others for meritorious deeds or to cement important alliances. Typically cha-ire are displayed on small lacquered trays during tea gatherings, and are stored in their own brocade silk pouches called shifuku. In the past these pouches, made from precious textiles, earned their own share of aesthetic appreciation and devotion.[/box]

[box]6) ZeZe Ware Tea Caddy stored in Brocade Silk Pouch (Shifuku)

This caddy shows many of the characteristics of the classic Chinese cha-ire so valued by early tea men, including its elegance of shape, precise proportioning, and restrained double glazing. Cha-ire often have a degree of refinement missing from other Japanese ceramics, whether intended for use in tea ceremony or not. Vessels form the Zeze kilns are particularly noteworthy in this respect. They resisted a distinct Japanization of style in ceramics that abandoned delicacy and perfection of construction in favor of freer styling of forms. Zeze’s conservatism is generally credited to the tea master and celebrated calligrapher, architect and garden designer, Kobori Enshū (1579-1647), under whose influence its kiln fell. Enshū practiced a style of tea suited to the elite of his day and his sense of taste embraced the refinement and elegance demanded by them.[/box]

[box]7) Electric Lamp, ‘Eye’ Hayashi Hisao (b. 1950)

Designer Hisao Hayashi has used the wood lattice construction of traditional shoji door panels as a point of departure for his lighting designs. He manipulates the lattice to create a compelling interplay of light and shadow. Hayashi’s studio is located in an area of northern Japan long noted for its woodworking heritage.[/box]

[box]8) The Enticement of Amaterasu by Ama no Uzume, Odake Kokkan (1880-1945)

Odake was a painter in the modern native style, called nihonga, which combined techniques of various Edo Period schools of painting with elements of Western painting. The artist was known for his depictions of historical subjects, of which this is an example. The subject is an episode from Japanese mythology described in the ancient chronicles. The goddess Ama no Uzume performs a lewd dance in front of the other gods in order to entice the sun goddess, Amaterasu, from the cave in which she has concealed herself. Behind her, another god grasps a large boulder, ready to move in into place to seal off the cave entrance once Amaterasu has emerged. Golden rays of sunlight emanate from the cave’s interior as Amaterasu comes forward to see what is causing the laughter from Uzume’s audience.[/box]

[box]9) Passing the Rubicon: Lieutenant S. Bent in the Mississippi’s First Cutter

William Heine (1827-1885) and Eliphalet Brown, Jr. (1816-1886)

During his visit to Japan in July 1853, Commodore Perry ordered his men to take soundings of Edo Bay and survey the coast while awaiting word on his demand to meet with Japanese officials. “To pass or cross the Rubicon” is a phrase meaning to start a course of action from which there is no turning back, alluding to the inevitability of confrontation with the Japanese in carrying out the commodore’s orders. The phrase is a classical reference; in 49 BC Julius Caesar invoked a civil war with his rival, Pompey the Great, when his legions crossed the Rubicon River of Northern Italy. Use of the phrase here is probably overly dramatic in the context of Lieutenant Silas Bent’s task, but appropriate for Perry’s overall mission. Perry named the nearest point of land Point Rubicon because no foreign ships had passed it in three centuries.

Perry’s choice of Kurihama at the mouth of Edo Bay as a landing site not far from the shogun’s capital was probably based at least in part on some familiarity with the area. Westerners had been trying to open Japan to commerce and diplomacy for at least a half century before Perry’s visit. Those who knew Nagasaki, Japan’s official door to outside world, represented a dead-end to their efforts, began coming to Kurihama on the Sagami Peninsula to try their luck there. American ships under the command of Commodore James Biddle visited the port in 1846 and Danish ships the same year as Perry.[/box]

[box]10) Bride’s Overgarment (Uchikake) with Motif of Cranes and Pine

In Japan the bride’s traditional wedding ensemble includes a heavy overgarment called an uchikake that is worn loosely over a white wedding kimono and obi sash. The uchikake developed around the 11th or 12th century as a ceremonial garment worn by high-ranking women of the samurai class over kosode, the standard dress of women, regardless of class, that was the fore-runner of today’s kimono. It continued as such into the 17th or 18th century when it began to be regarded more and more as a wedding garment.

Uchikake are often called “wedding kimonos” by Westerners, but the design of the garment and the manner in which it is worn differ from those of kimono. The uchikake, with its thickly padded hem, is meant to trail along the floor behind the bride and for that reason is typically longer than the bride is tall. Even in the past uchikake, despite being overgarments, were seldom worn out-of-doors, but were restricted to the raised floors of residential interiors where outdoor footwear was removed before entering.

Auspicious emblems of felicitations adorn bridal uchikake, and are carefully chosen to enhance the bride’s image of gentility, grace and femininity.[/box]

[box]11) Lining for a Man’s Haori (Kimono Jacket) Depicting Daikoku and Ebisu

Propitious gods of good fortune Daikoku (left) and Ebisu (right) are the subjects of this haori lining, which has the often-paired figures robustly shouldering oversized versions of their usual attributes. Daikoku and Ebisu are two of the Seven Gods of Good Fortune, or shichi fukujin. Daikoku carries a wealth-producing mallet which emits a shower of gold coins with every strike, while Ebisu holds up a sea bream. The sea bream, or tai in Japanese, carries auspicious connotations because of the phonetic association of its name with the Japanese word for felicitations or congratulations (medetai). The popular deities are two of the most frequently encountered Japanese emblems of good fortune.[/box]

[box]12) Foxes Wedding Procession, Kojima Rōtetsu (1793–1852)

Little is known of the life of this artist, Kojima Rōtetsu. Born in Nagoya in west-central Japan, Rōtetsu appears to have spent most of his life there. He most likely fits the mold of an artist in the bujinga, or literary men’s, style of painting, a loosely defined “school” based on a renewed interest in Chinese painting techniques following the demise of the Ming dynasty in the mid-17th century. Perhaps the most influential school of Japanese painting in the 19th century, its artists were usually not professional painters but rather scholars of Confucianism, poetry and calligraphy who also painted. In Nagoya artists interested in Chinese painting had a remarkable resource in the collector and connoisseur Kamiya Tan’yū, with whom other bujinga painters, most notably Nakabayashi Chikutō and Yamamoto Baiitsu, were associated.

Rōtetsu is known to have studied Chinese Ming and Yüan painting, although his relationship, if any, to Tan’yū is unclear. He did study painting with Baiitsu, probably in Kyōtō, where this Nagoya-born artist lived from 1803, when Rōtetsu turned 10, until his return to Nagoya in 1854, two years after Rōtetsu’s death. Rōtetsu began his instruction with another Nagoya artist, Yoshikawa Yoshinobu, a painter in the conservative style of the Kanō school which received the official patronage of the Tokugawa, Japan’s military rulers.

Foxes Wedding Procession’s subject matter and the sense of utter spontaneity are not typical of the usually more mannered bujinga, and even less so of works in the Kanō style with their emphasis on careful line work. Baiitsu regularly worked without lines, relaying on pigment alone to delineate forms as Rōtetsu does here in the heads and limbs of his foxes, but the naturalism of Baiitsu’s studies of bird-and-flower subjects differs greatly in appearance and feeling from Rōtetsu’s impressionism.

Rather, this painting seems closest in spirit to the works of zenga artists, Zen priests working principally in ink who are noted for their free expression and eccentrism. With immediacy and humor, Rōtetsu’s work, too, derives its appeal from the effectiveness of a few deceptively simple brushstrokes, applied quickly but with a sure hand.

The work depicts a fox bride riding a palanquin while being escorted to the residence of her future husband by attendants and family members. Japanese refer to brief rain showers which occur while the sun continues to shine as kitsune no yomeiri (‘foxes weddings’). That the motif persists today as a cultural icon is evident by a sequence depicting a similar wedding procession in Yume (Dreams), the 1990 film by the renown director Akira Kurosawa (1910-1998).The bride’s palanquin is draped with a covering bearing an image of the flaming jewel (hōju dama).

The fox, a complex creature in Japanese folklore, is linked to this essentially religious emblem through its association with the cult of Inari Daimyōjin, a Shintō/folkloric rice deity. The familiar of this deity is the white fox, which is frequently carved in stone and placed on opposite sides of the approaches to shrines dedicated to Inari. Small porcelain figures of Inari foxes often depict the tips of the foxes’ tails in the form of this jewel.

Most of the foxes are wearing matching happi, a jacket-like garment commonly worn by members of laboring groups as expressions of affiliation. The striped lapels of such garments were typical of attendants called yakkō who acted as porters in the retainers of important people during pre-modern times. The second figure in the procession is a male fox dressed in the ceremonial attire called a kamishimo, signifying his comparatively higher rank than that of the yakkō. The garment consists of a broad-shoulder vest and voluminous trousers called hakama; here the hems of the hakama are tucked up at the waist to keep off road dust. Also worn at the waist are the long and short swords of the samurai.

Rōtetsu’s signature appears as part of the inscription in the lower right corner of the painting. The inscription indicates a cyclical date for the work which corresponds to the year 1852, the year of the artist’s death. Rōtetsu produced the work in the second month on a day designated hatsu uma no hi, the ‘first day of the horse’ according the cyclical calendar. The day holds a special significance for Inari shrines throughout the country dedicated to this popular deity. Rōtetsu may have produced the work in response to an impromptu request of a friend as a sort of talisman of good fortune. The inscription states that the work was executed at Shinpukuji, a well-known Nagoya temple.[/box]

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