MONOGATARI: Tales of Japan

Asia Week New York 2011

Exhibition Dates:
March 17 - 26, 11 - 5 pm

Asia Week New York
Open House Weekend:

Saturday, March 19th, 10 - 6 pm
Sunday, March 20th, 10 - 6 pm

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The Tale of Bunsho

Scholten Japanese Art is pleased to announce our upcoming exhibition, Monogatari: Tales of Japan, which will offer paintings, woodblock prints and a selection of netsuke devoted to the art of story-telling. We will also be participating in the Asia Week New York Open House Weekend ( on March 19 - 20th.

One of the highlights of the exhibition will be an illustrated manuscript recounting The Tale of Bunsho (Bunsho Zoshi), in the format of three hand scrolls with text by the court calligrapher Mushanokoji Sanekage (1661-1738) and illustrations attributed to Tosa Mitsuoki (1617-1691), one of the most important Tosa school painters of the Edo Period (1603-1838).

The Tale of Bunsho (the Saltmaker), is one of a group of short stories called otogizoshi, compiled in the Muromachi period (1338-1573) but more widely known by the 17th and 18th centuries. Sets of hand scrolls, such as this, were often commissioned from Kyoto artists for New Year's or dowry gifts. This particular tale recounts the life of Bunda (who later changes his name to Bunsho), a lowly servant, who through hard work and devotion to a particular shrine is able to achieve fortune and happiness for his family. The set, formerly in the collection of the Viscount Todo Takanori (1894-1947), was previously exhibited in the illustrious Japan-British Exhibition at the White City in London in 1910.

In addition to hand scrolls, the exhibition will include approximately ten paintings in various formats including a fine example of a pair of screens depicting scenes from the Genji Monogatari (Tale of Genji) from the 18th century; and a small standing screen (tsuitate) by Ko Sukoku (1730-1804) depicting the legendary 'armor tugging' episode from the Soga Brothers kabuki play.

Mano Gyotei, Raijin God of Thunder

There will be several hanging scrolls depicting various legends and gods, including two particularly dynamic paintings of Raijin (God of Thunder) by Mano Gyotei (1874-1934). One of the earliest paintings included in the exhibition is a detached segment from the 14th century emakimono (handscroll): Kegon Gojugo-sho Emaki (Illustrated Handscroll of the Pilgrimage of Zenzai Doji in Fifty-five Stages). The scroll depicts the story of Zenzai Doji, a youth who searches for the teachings of the Buddha after he meets the Bodhisattva of Transcendent Wisdom, Monju Bosatsu. Zenzai Doji was told to go southward to visit saints; at the end of his journey he meets the Bodhisattva of Universal Goodness, Fugen Bosatsu, who lectures on The Ten Great Vows in order for Zenzai Doji to ultimately attain spiritual enlightenment. Zenzai Doji's southern pilgrimage to 53 places and his encounters with 55 saints are illustrated in the Kegonkyo Sutra. Other surviving fragments from this famous hand scroll are in collection of museums such as The Museum Yamato Bunka Kan Nara, and Museum Rietberg Zurich.

Not limited to paintings, the exhibition will also present a nearly equal number of woodblock prints, such as a triptych depicting Benkei Playfully Dragging the Bell of Mii Temple up Mt. Hiei, 1845, by the master of legendary subjects, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861). There will also be prints by other Utagawa school artists, and their contemporaries such as Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), and the later 19th century master, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892).

monkey and octopus

Among a small group of approximately ten netsuke there will be classic subjects such as this ivory Monkey and Octopus by Garaku. This netsuke references a legend in which the octopus-physician to Ryujin, the Dragon King of the Sea, prescribes a monkey's liver to heal the King's daughter, but the monkey outwits a jellyfish sent to capture him. In this carving the monkey, with a very human-like bemused expression, seems to have the situation well in hand. There seems to be little danger that the octopus will have any success in securing his prey.

Scholten Japanese Art is located at 145 West 58th Street, Suite 6D, between 6th and 7th Avenues. For the duration of the exhibition, March 17 - 26th, the gallery will have general open hours (no appointments needed), 11 - 5 pm.

We are pleased to be participating in the schedule of events organized by Asia Week New York including extended hours on Saturday, March 19th, Sunday, March 20th, 10 - 6 pm.

asian week new york


Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm preferably for no more than two individuals at a time.
Visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing at their discretion.

site last updated
May 25, 2023

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475