Rat and Ox (section 1 of 7)
Identification and Creation
Object Number
1985.556
People
Attributed to Kano Shōun, Japanese (1637 - 1702)
Title
The Twelve Zodiac Animals as Poets (Jūnishi Kasen)
Other Titles
Transliterated Title: Jūnishi Kasen
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
handscroll, painting
Date
Early Edo period, late 17th century
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Period
Edo period, 1615-1868
Culture
Japanese
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/210644
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Handscroll; ink, color and gold on paper
Dimensions
H. 35.8 x W. 378.9 cm (14 1/8 x 149 3/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: two seals of Suenobu (Kanō)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of the Hofer Collection of the Arts of Asia
Accession Year
1985
Object Number
1985.556
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Descriptions
Description
The works of famous Japanese poets from different historical periods were copied, compiled, and pitted against one another in "competitions" that mirrored actual poetry contests held at court. The competing verses were sometimes accompanied by depictions of their authors. A tradition of painted poet "portraits" evolved in tandem with a taste for realism during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), although the images were based on imagined likenesses rather than on actual appearance.

This scroll satirizes those earlier literary and pictorial legacies by portraying the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar) in the guise of traditional Japanese poets. Each wears a sumptuously rendered costume--the tiger, rabbit, and dragon in the robes of high-ranking male courtiers; the snake in the exquisite multilayered dress of a court lady. Each is seated against a gold-misted ground beneath an appropriate verse.

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu