Detail View: The AMICA Library: Horse Race at the Kamo Shrine

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Role: 
Creator Dates/Places: 
1388 - 1462
Creator Name-CRT: 
Tosa School
Horse Race at the Kamo Shrine
Title Type: 
Full View
Creation Date: 
17th Century
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
pair of six-fold screens; ink, and color on gold ground paper
Image: 161cm x 362cm, Overall: 176.5cm x 377.3cm, Closed: 176.5cm x 64cm x 12.5cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund
Among the major Shinto shrines of ancient Kyoto few occupy a more prominent role in the life of the city's residents than the Kamo shrines. Dedicated by the seventh century to the worship of native kami (deities), both the upper and lower shrines have become impressive compounds with numerous outbuildings. Shown here is a panoramic view of the lower shrine, which sits on the promontory in central Kyoto formed by the joining of the two branches of the Kamo river. Set in deep woods, the shrine's principalbuildings are arranged along an axis that proceeds from the tall red tori (entrance gate) toward the walled compound in which the hidden deities reside (left screen). But, as these screens reveal, an assortment of activities associated with daily life aswell as special holiday events occur within shrine grounds. Taking up nearly the entire right screen is a depiction of the annual 15 May horse race held in conjunction with the Hollyhock Festival. This event, which dates to the Heian period, enjoyed the participation of the court and drew many thousands of spectators. Each wears a distinctively patterned garment and assumes a particular gesture or pose that sets him or her apart from those nearby. Children also appear in the crowds; the special viewing building, set back slightly, is for privileged court members. The animation and density of the figural groupings is extraordinary, even for genre paintings of the Edo period. These lively compositions draw upon the venerated Heian period illustrated handscroll tradition of scenes from daily life or religious narrative for inspiration. The tradition of depicting ordinary people in scenes of everyday life occurs in Japanese art earlier and more continuously than in the artistic traditions of either of its EastAsian neighbors. The unknown painter of these screens was equally adept at rendering the landscape scenery, plant life, and architectural features of the various shrine buildings. These screens are in fact an abbreviated version of a much larger "mural" painting: originally the Kamo festival scenery filled several fusuma (sliding door panels) of an entire room based on the Kamo horse race subject. Two other fragments of the original painting panels are known, in Japan and Germany, providing a larger glimpse of the work's breadth of vision. Regrettably the identity of the painter is unknown, but his training in the colorful and animated tradition of yamato-e is readily apparent. M.R.C.
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