Six-panels screen depicting the exit from the city of a Chinese emperor on horseback and his concubine in a luxurious palanquin.
It may be a scene illustrating the poem The Song of Everlasting Sorrow (Chang hen ge, 長恨歌) written by Bai Juyi (772-846), which recounts the tragic love story between the emperor Ming Huang (also known as Tang Xuanzong, 685-762) and his favorite concubine, the beautiful Yang Guifei (719-756). His excessive love led to intrigues at court and unrest in the empire. A rebellion in 755 forced the emperor to flee the capital. The uprising led by the general An Lushan (705-757) accused Yang Guifei of the emperor’s negligence and was executed the following year. The emperor abdicated shortly afterwards, setting the decline of the Tang dynasty.
This story became a popular theme for the Kanô school painters from the Momoyama period (1573-1615) to the early Edo period (1615-1868). This long-lasting popularity in Japanese visual and literary arts reflects a strong emotional identification with the love, death and longing themes, and the persistent idea of Tang Dynasty China as a cultural golden age. Moreover, the poem served as source of inspiration for the famous novel The Tale of Genji (c. 1010) written by Murasaki Shikibu (c. 973 – 1014/1025).
Signed Kanô Dôgen (狩野洞元, 1643-1703). He was the second son of Kanô Sôsen (狩野素川). He founded an independent studio as an official omote eshi (external painter) of the shgunate in Asakusa Saryumachi, a district in current Tokyo. He also known as Ikinobu, Kuninobu or Kumenosuke.
He belonged to the Kanô school, one of the most famous Japanese schools of painting. This was stablished in the late Muromachi period, which means around the middle of the 15th century by Kanô Masanobu (狩野正信, 1434? – 1530?). This family artists workshop combined Muromachi period and Chinese-derived ink painting techniques with decorative and traditional Japanese elements. During the Edo period (1603-1868), they were the official painters of the Tokugawa shogunate. The subjects of literature and more broadly Chinese culture are very popular with the Kanô school.
The British Museum holds a hanging scroll by the artist: Kanô Dôgen, Hanging scroll. Bird and plum blossom, late 17th century, 38.5 x 12.4 in., inv. 1881,1210,0.768.
Kanô Dôgen (1643-1703)
Japan – Edo period (1603 – 1868) – second half of the 17th century Height: 186 cm – six-panels – width 480 cm (total)