Emperors and shoguns were at the center of power in medieval-period Japan. While the emperors transmitted refined court culture, the shoguns sought to unify the nation with their military might. By analyzing emaki commissioned by emperors and shoguns, this talk will
attempt to identify their understanding of nationhood and milieu.
A common truism in Chinese art history is that copying works by former masters is essential, but to be imitative rather than transcendental was to be skilled yet without talent. The importance of copying has led to numerous worthy tomes on transfer methods and the assessment of the quality of brushwork in relation to these methods. But what happens when we use image as the key investigative subject? This presentation takes an attributed Qiu Ying copy of the Qingming shanghe tu as the starting point to investigate a small group of mid-Ming paintings that are copies of earlier famous paintings, but with either new endings or beginnings that radically shifts the narrative of the original. In such instances, there are always at least two embedded narratives – one that references the original, and the other of the copy's conceit. My interest lies in unpacking how these different narratives interact, what they may reveal about the values of an “original” in mid-Ming times, and how, instead of transcending the master, these paintings work because they are “self-knowing” imitations.
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A major focus of Professor Yonekura's research has been the portrait painting in the temple Jingoji thought to be of Minamoto Yoritomo. The process of investigating this iconic work has led him to rethink the significance of studying the historical context of Japanese portrait paintings. What he learned was the mundane fact that portraits are products of society that adhere to the visual conventions and customs of their historical context. Yonekura will explain how clues about the the identity of the sitter and dating of the portrait may be discovered within the cultural milieu of medieval Japanese society.