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Frolicking Animals

Frolicking Animals

£170.00
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3.6 KGS
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Frolicking Animals (12th Century)

Toba Sojo (1053-1140) was a Japanese painter-priest, who is believed to have created the famous Animal Caricature, or 'Choju Giga', scrolls.  These are considered among the finest examples of Japanese narrative scroll painting.  Choju-jinbutsu-gigare literally 'Animal-person Caricatures'.  This famous set of four picture scrolls, known as 'emakimono' belong to the Kozan-jo temple in Kyoto, Japan. The Choju-giga scrolls are also referred to as 'Scrolls of Frolicking Animal's' and 'Scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans'.  

The type of painting found in these scrolls is derived from the tradition of Buddhist monochrome ink painting that flourished during the Heian and Kamakura periods and was employed to depict the Buddhist deities in their iconographic form. These animal caricature scrolls may also be regarded as one of the most outstanding examples of the school of Japanese painting known as 'yamato-e', which specialised in depicting narrative scenes taken from Japanese history and from literature.

Since the scrolls are not accompanied by a text and have no unity of subject matter, the exact meaning of the paintings is unknown. The first scroll illustrates anthropomorphic rabbits and monkeys bathing and getting ready for a ceremony. A monkey thief runs from animals with sticks and knocks over a frog from the lively ceremony. Further on, the rabbits and monkeys are playing and wrestling while another group of animals participate in a funeral and frog prays to Buddha as the scroll closes.  A satirical political undertone is believed to be present beneath the animated and carefree animals.

The scrolls are painted in black ink on white paper. Particularly fine are the first two scrolls, those believed to be by Toba Sojo, which show a mastery of brushwork and a remarkable animation. This pictorial tradition derived from China since Han times was introduced into Japan during the 6th century and continued to be popular in Buddhist monasteries. Favouring line rather than colour, the Japanese painters of this school employed a remarkable economy of means and expressive power, which are typical of the best of the painting of the Far East.

The right-to-left reading direction of Choju-jinbutsu-giga is still a standard method seen in modern manga and novels in Japan; in fact, these scrolls are credited as the oldest work of manga, the graphic art form which has gone on to be a worldwide phenomenon. The scrolls are now entrusted to the Kyoto National Museum and Tokyo National MuseumThis scroll has been named a National Treasure in Japan.  

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