Konoe Nobutada ( Japanese, 1565 - 1614 )

c. 1609
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General Description

Konoe Nobutada (1565-1614), an important Edo period courtier and master calligrapher, is said to have painted Tenjin (Sugawara no Michizane, 845-903 CE) every morning as a devotional practice. There are many extant iterations of Nobutada's Tenjin, with varying inscriptions.

The story of Tenjin was widely known during the Edo period and continues to be relevant in Japan today. Sugawara Machinaze was a 9th-century scholar banished to exile in Kyushu. After his death, plagues visited Japan until the daughter of a Shinto priest in Kyoto had a vision which revealed that it was Machinaze's wrathful spirit causing the calamities to befall the nation, and that only a shrine in his memory would appease him. The Tenjin Shrine was built in Kyoto, and Machinaze eventually became an object of devotion as a Shinto deity of learning and scholarship.

Nobutada's portrayals of Tenjin reflect the spare Zenga style. The artist captures the figure in a few strokes, but conveys the strong character of the scholar.

Drawn from

  • Fumiko E. Cranston and William J. Rathbun, "Kitano Tenjin Wearing a Chinese Robe," in

Song of the Brush: Japanese Paintings from the Sanso Collection, edited by John M. Rosenfeld. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1979. cat. 25.

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