The Tale of a Painter, Tosa Mitsuoki, (1617-1691) 

Hand scroll, Ink and color on paper, Dimension: 32 x 784 cm

The Tale of a Painter scroll in the AAM Collection is a direct reproduction of the famed narrative scroll in the Museum of Imperial Collections ( San no Maru Shozokan ) in Tokyo. The Imperial scroll is dated by current scholarship as a product of the Kamakura Period ( 14th Century ). Assuming the inscription on the box of the AAM scroll is correct, this copy of the Imperial scroll was made during the 17th Century by Tosa Mitsuoki. The inscription was signed by Kohitsu Ryoshin (1876-1953) who was the direct descendent of the renowned connoisseur Kohitsu Ryohan (1790-1853) who presented the Imperial scroll to the Tokugawa government in 1848. The painting remained in the Tokugawa hands until it was presented by Tokugawa Iesato (1863-1940) to the emperor in 1888. It was said to have been a favorite painting of Emperor Meiji. 

It was recorded that the painter Sumiyoshi Gukei (1631-1705) had painted a copy of the Imperial scroll. The provenance of the Imperial scroll is uncertain before the 1848 presentation by Kohitsu family to Tokugawa government. This direct copy in the Asian Art Museum Collection must have been a reproduction before 1848, if not by Tosa Mitsuoki in 17th Century as Kohitsu Ryohan stated on the wooden box. Since it is a facsimile copy of the Imperial scroll, it is difficult to confirm if the scroll is indeed painted by Tosa Mitsuoki. One interesting detail to note is that the Imperial scroll has apparently been trimmed at upper and lower margin during the last remounting, when compared to the Asian Art Museum scroll. It would be safe to conclude that this copy was done before the margin were trimmed.

"The scroll tells the story of a poor painter, who held a big family party celebrating his appointment as Governor of Iyo Province. Later he found that his domain was already occupied and that none of the land tax would revert to him. He attempted a number of times to resolve the issue, but failed. In his last effort to secure aid he turned to a nobleman in Hosho-ji who was an official magistrate of painting. Failing once again, in his despair he became a Buddhist monk and painted a record of his life. This scroll is noted among the paintings of the first half of 14th Century for its vivid, unrestrained brushwork and sense of humour." ( above text quoted from the catalogue of the 1965/1966 USA and Canada tour exhibition of [Art Treasure of Japan] organized by the Japan National Commission for Protection of Cultural properties). The imperial scroll left Japan only twice before. The 1965/1966 exhibition took the scroll to LA County Museum, Detroit Art Institute, Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto. The second foreign exhibit was held at the Arthur Sackler Museum of Art in Washington D.C. in 1997. The Imperial scroll has never been published or displayed completely before. The display of the Facsimile copy by Tosa Mitsuoki allows Japanese art lovers the first opportunity to view the fabulous scroll in its entirety.

Inscription on the wooden box, written by Kohitsu Ryoshin (1876-1953) stating the scroll by Tosa Mitsuoki

Inscription inside of the cover of the box by Kohitsu Ryoshin (1876-1953), Dated 1927, Cyclical year Ding Mou   

Kohitsu Family is the reputable authority on authenticating painting and calligraphy during the Edo Period. The inscription is signed by Kohitsu Ryoshin who was the direct descendent of the renowned connoisseur Kohitsu Ryohan (1790-1853) who presented the Imperial scroll of the tale of a Painter to the Tokugawa government in 1848.  

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