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Gallery Text

The courtier at top left of this screen brushes a poem onto paper while the monk at center, his back to the viewer, waits to carry the missive. The two men are traveling through the same famously melancholic mountain pass in opposite directions: the courtier is traveling eastward, away from Kyoto, in disgrace, and the monk is returning to the capital. The story of their convergence is told in the 10th-century literary classic Tales of Ise. Ironically painted in eastern Edo, this screen is in fact a creative re-iteration of a painting by Hōitsu’s adopted master, Kyoto-born Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716). Kōrin’s version was published in the book One Hundred Paintings by Kōrin (displayed nearby), which Hōitsu compiled for the centennial of Kōrin’s death. This screen may have been painted for the same event.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Sakai Hōitsu 酒井抱一, Japanese (Edo 1761 - 1828)
The Ivy Way through Mount Utsu (Utsuyama)
Work Type
painting, fusuma
c. 1815
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Edo period, 1615-1868
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Two-panel folding screen; ink, color, gold, and sprinkled gold on paper
image only: H. 138.4 x W. 145.5 cm (54 1/2 x 57 5/16 in.)
with mount: H. 157.5 x W. 164.5 cm (62 x 64 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • signature: 抱一筆 [Painted by Hōitsu]
  • seal: round, relief: 文詮 [Monsen]


Recorded Ownership History
[Ishiguro Gallery Co., Ltd, Tokyo, by 1999], sold; to Robert and Betsy Feinberg, Bethesda, MD (1999-2016), gift; to Harvard Art Museums.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Two-panel folding screen depicting the "Ivy Way through Mount Utsu," a famous episode nine from the Tales of Ise (10th century) in which "a certain man" traveling Eastwards from the capital encounters a wandering ascetic at a narrow and foreboding pass at the foot of Mount Utsu in Suruga. Suprised, the man and the ascetic recognize each other. The man gives the ascetic a poem to take to his love, whom he has left behind in the capital. The screen painting shows the man composing his poem (top right) and the waiting ascetic (center, with his back to the viewer). The melancholy narrow pass is pressed by two suffocating landmasses which take up the bulk of the composition, and funnels outwards from the claustrophic path at the bottom right of the screen into the middle ground occupied by the two figures. Cut gold fold is sprinkled across the scene in an evocation of the gold mist bands frequently used as a compositional device in classical Japanese-style (so-called Yamato-e) painting.

Publication History

  • Kumita Shohei, Sakai Hoitsu gashu (Tokyo, Japan, 1976), illus. #87
  • Murashige Yasushi, ed., Rinpa [Rimpa Painting] vol. IV : Scenes from Literature, People, Shikosha Publishing Co. (Kyoto, Japan, 1991), #14, p. 31
  • Kobayashi Tadashi, Hoitsu and Edo Rimpa, Nihon no Bijutsu (Tokyo, Japan, November 2004), 463, illus. #5
  • Matthew McKelway, Kobayashi Tadashi, and Yasumura Toshinobu, Silver Wind: The Arts of Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828), exh. cat., Japan Society (New York, 2012), pp. 72-73, cat. 10
  • The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, exh. cat., Yomiuri Shinbunsha (Tokyo, 2013), p. 43, cat. 8
  • Musée Cernuschi, Le Japon au fil des saisons: Collection Robert et Betsy Feinberg, exh. cat., Paris-Musées (Paris, 2014), pp. 70-73
  • Genevieve Nevejan, Meeting: Betsy and Robert Feinberg, La Gazette Drouot (Paris, January 2016), No. 54, pp. 86-89, p. 88, ill.
  • Yukio Lippit, "An Interview with Japanese Painting Collectors Robert and Betsy Feinberg", Orientations, Orientations Magazine (Hong Kong, January/February 2020), vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 34-43, p. 39, fig. 6
  • Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit, Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), p. 118, fig. 14
  • Rachel Saunders, ed., Catalogue of the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, brochure, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, 2021), pp. 79-82, cat. 72

Exhibition History

  • Rimpa and Pictures of Ise, Nezu Museum, Tokyo, 04/23/1999 - 05/09/1999
  • Treasures of Rinpa Masters: Inheritance and Innovation, Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, 10/07/2008 - 11/16/2008
  • Silver Wind: the Arts of Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828), Japan Society, New York, 09/29/2012 - 01/06/2013
  • The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 05/21/2013 - 07/15/2013; Miho Museum, 07/20/2013 - 08/18/2013; Tottori Prefectural Museum, 10/05/2013 - 11/10/2013
  • 32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/03/2015 - 06/07/2016
  • Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/14/2020 - 06/06/2021

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at