Tosa Mitsusuke (1675-1710) | Tales of Ise | Japanese folding screen



A six-fold Japanese screen by Tosa Mitsusuke (1675-1710). Japan 17/18th century, Edo period.

The signature reads Shoroku-i ge Tosa sa Konoe Shogen Mitsusuke Hiitsu. The seal is illegible.

Ink, pigments and gold-leaf on paper.


Screen – H. 28” x W. 91”  (66 cm by 232 cm)

Price: USD 28000

This small screen displays seven narratives of the Tale of Ise, each meticulously brushed with rich pigments on a gold-leaf background. Artists of the Tosa school painted for the imperial court and aristocratic patrons, their subject matter most commonly based on themes from Japanese literature. There is no set order for reading the screen. Rather, the viewer is encouraged to wander at leisure, recalling the scenes pictured and the sentiments they evoke.

The Tales of Ise are presumed to detail episodes in the life of Ariwara no Narihira (825-880), a celebrated poet and nobleman of early Heian court society. First appearing in the tenth century, the Tales are a compilation of more than one hundred brief episodes that culminate in one or more poems. Poetry was central to the cultural life of Japanese aristocracy and its influence peaked in the Heian period. In the Tales of Ise, the prose is designed primarily to provide settings for the poems, which are characterised by an appreciation of nature’s beauty and a pervasive awareness of life’s impermanence.

Tosa Mitsusuke was the 18th head of the Tosa school. He is the son of Tosa Mitsunari (1646-1710). Successive heads of the Tosa school served the emperors as Edokoro-Azukari (official painters for the Imperial Palace). This title was passed to Mitsusuke, from his father, in 1696. In 1709, it is recorded that Mitsusuke, with Kano Tsunenobu, painted sliding doors in the Imperial Palace and the Sento Palace.