The poet Kiyohara Motosuke


  • Catalogue text

    The tenth-century courtier Kiyohara no Motosuke (908-990) was known to later generations as one of the thirty-six immortal poets. He had already achieved great fame in his lifetime through his verses and had edited poetic anthologies such as the Gosenshū. Murasaki Shikibu notes in her diary that collections of his poems were already valued shortly after his death [Richard Bowring, Murasaki Shikibu, her Diary and Poetic Memoirs: A Translation and Study (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 100-101]. His success made life difficult for his equally renowned daughter. Sei Shōnagon. author of The Pillow Book. She writes that if she produced a clever poem, people would expect this considering her ancestry, and if she produced a bad poem, she would be disgracing her father’s memory [Morris. 121-22].

    The poem inscribed here reads:

    I should like to see
    my childhood home
    amidst an autumn field spread
    with a brocade of bush clover
    where the cry of a deer is heard.
    [This poem by Kiyohara no Motosuke is in the Wakan rōeishū, number 285. The use of the word furusato in the third line is an accepted variant of the poem. I am most grateful to John Carpenter for this translation].

    Shūnan expresses the personality of the poet by comically exaggerating the tilt of his hat and the balloon-shaped trousers. The artist obviously delighted in drawing the large shapes and stocky proportions of the figure. Light washes of blue and green are used for the clothing on top of which gold paint has been added suggesting a patterned fabric.

    Shūnan was the third generation of Yoshimura family artists of Osaka whose grandfather Shūzan studied with the Kano school. In 1790, Shūnan is referred to as ‘Hokkyō Shūnan' for the first time [see Osaka City Art Museum, Kinsei Osaka gadan (Kyoto: Dōhōsha, 1983) for this reference to the Gōyū kenji (1790). 295], therefore we know that he achieved the honorary rank at some time prior to this date, making the Ashmolean fan from the latter part of his life. It seems this era was a time of experimentation for the artist and perhaps coincides with a time after which he is said to have moved to Edo. Apart from this fan where he paints in the style of Ōgata Kōrin, the Koga Bikō states he tried his hand at Ukiyo-e as well [Zotei koga bikō, 1234].

    In: Katz, Janice, Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with an introductory essay by Oliver Impey (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003)

Further reading

Katz, Janice, Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with an introductory essay by Oliver Impey (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003), no. 49 on pp. 170-171, p. 153, illus. pp. 170-171

Reference URL

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