Detail View: The AMICA Library: One of the Ten Fast Bulls

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Dates/Places: 
Creator Name-CRT: 
Japan, Kamakura Period
One of the Ten Fast Bulls
Title Type: 
Full View
Creation Date: 
c. 1300
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
hanging scroll; ink and slight color on paper
Overall: 27.3cm x 32cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
John L. Severance Fund
In late Heian and Kamakura Japan the Buddhist arts flourished as never before, or after. The court, aristocratic families, and religious communities acted as the principal sponsors for buildings as well as a range of smaller precious objects in every medium and format imaginable. Aristocratic society embraced the daily rites of Buddhism, which focused on otherworldly concerns, while they cultivated a highly refined sensitivity toward the affairs of everyday life. Education in the Chinese classics was combined with, and then superseded by, Japanese models of learning and experience. Literary forms, especially poetry, were closely linked to visual imagery, and both became increasingly realistic in their attention to the world around them. Beginning at least by the twelfth century, artists and patrons favored an extended handscroll format for depicting events of the day. Called emakimono (illustrated handscroll), these paintings could be comfortably unrolled in one's hands on a small table or rolled acrossthe tatami mat of a room for viewing by several guests. Written passages alternated with illustrations, or the entire scroll might be an extended visual narrative composition devoid of text. Frequently these emakimono were composed as sets, but they werealways intended to be viewed privately or in small intimate gatherings rather than in the public arena. They are exceedingly rare and rank among the most important contributions of Japanese art to world art. This painting is a section of what was once a continuous handscroll portraying the most famous oxen of Japan's agricultural provinces. The scroll became so valuable to tea devotees in the Edo period that it was divided up and the fragments individually mounted as hanging scrolls. The massive body of the bull is painted in numerous carefully graduated layers of ink. Contours and surface body features are noted by thin undulating spaces that are devoid of color, or tonally reserved. This technique is demanding yet produces very subtle visual effects thatcombine to portray three-dimensional form, individuality, and dignity in an otherwise common farm animal. M.R.C.
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