attributed to Tosa Mitsuoki, (1617-1691)
The Tale of Bunshō, the Saltmaker
(Bunshō Zoshi) with calligraphy by
Mushanokōji Sanekage (1661-1738)
set of three handscrolls complete, manuscript with illustrations; ink, colors, gofun and gold on paper decorated with gold and silver leaf; dated and signed at the end of the third volume: Genroku gannen junigatsu jojun kore wo kaku (written in the first year of Genroku era, 1688, early in the 12th month), with signature Sanekage; with lacquer storage box inscribed on the exterior with the title, Bunshō, and identifying the artists; Kotobagaki (text): Mushanokoji Sanekage; Gedai (title), Daigo Fuyumoto Kyō; E (painter), Tosa Mitsuoki; san kan (three scrolls)
volume I: 12 7/8 by 560 5/8 in.
32.8 by 1424 cm
volume II: 12 7/8 by 508 5/8 in.
32.8 by 1292 cm
volume III: 12 7/8 by 506 3/4 in.
32.8 by 1287 cm
Accompanied by a letter inscribed: Kono Bunshō kanmotsu sankan ichiran shi, E wo waga jakunen jibun kore wo hitsu, Tosa Hōgan, shoshū gegun, Tsuneaki ("I have looked over these three Bunshō scrolls and they are my work from my youth"), with one seal Fujiwara.
Tosa Mitsuoki passed on his title to his son and became a monk at 2nd year of Empo (1681) and took the name of Tsuneaki. He achieved the honorific Hōgan title at 2nd year of Joko (1685). As such, the signature and title indicate that the letter was written sometime after 1685.
Tosa Mitsuoki is considered one of the most important Tosa school painters of the Edo Period (1603-1868). Around 1654 Mitsuoki gained a position as court painter (edokoro azukari) that had for many years traditionally been held by the Tosa family. He is largely credited with reviving the yamato-e classical painting style, which had lost influence through the 17th century with the rise of the shogunate and their patronage of the Kano school painters. The yamato-e style, established in the Heian period (12th century), often focuses on poetry and nature, or narrative stories and themes appropriate to court culture.
The Tale of Bunshō the Saltmaker, is one of a group of short stories called otogizoshi, compiled in the Muromachi period but more widely known by the 17th and 18th century. Sets of handscrolls, such as this, were often commissioned from Kyoto artists for New Year's or dowry gifts. This particular tale recounts the life of Bunta, a lowly servant, who through hard work and devotion to a particular shrine is able to achieve fortune and happiness for his family.
Ex Collection Viscount Tōdō Takanori (1894-1947)
Ogawa Kikumatsu, Nihon meihō monogatari (Famous Treasures of Japanese Tales), Vol II,
Yomiuri Shinbun, 1930. p192
Nichiei Hakurankai (Japan-British Exhibition), The White City, London, 1910
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site last updated
October 14, 2021
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