Soga Nichokuan (ca 1625-1660) | Tiger & Dragon | Japanese hanging scroll pair



This pair of large Japanese dragon and tiger paintings were done by Nichokuan, the 17th-century Soga school artist.

Ink on paper.

Each image measures 118 by 57 cm (47” by 23”).

Each scroll measures 215 by 73 cm (85” by 29”).

Price: USD 14000 the pair

The dragon and tiger have long been seen as symbols for Yin and Yang in Chinese philosophy. They represent contrary forces that are perpetually interconnected, ensuring the constant, dynamic balance of all things. Yin and Yang is also often portrayed in Japanese art through the pairing of dragons and tigers. The dragon represents Yang’s active qualities while the tiger represents Yin’s passive traits. Here, Soga Nichokuan has imbued the protagonists with quite a comical demeanour. While the dragon moves with energy and power, it is somewhat distracted; the tiger, in contrast, is distinctly uneasy and reluctant to leave the shelter of the bamboo.

Soga Nichokuan (active ca 1625-60), well known for his paintings of hawks, is the successor to, and likely the son of, Soga Chokuan (active ca 1596-1615). Extant records indicate that both were based in or nearby the port city of Sakai, south of Osaka. Nichokuan sometimes signed his name “the Sixth Generation from Shubun”, in light of the Soga school beginning in the early 15th century with Korean emigrant Ri Shubun. In addition, a document written by Nichokuan in 1656, accompanied by a set of hawk scrolls preserved at Horyu-ji temple, includes a lineage chart that ties Chokuan to Soga Jasoku. Some scholars dispute these claims, suggesting possible fabrication of the scrolls for the purpose of enhancing the reputations of both painters. Regardless, they were both highly respected and talented artists whose works are preserved in major temples throughout the Kansai region of Japan to this day. Nichokuan was succeeded by a number of painters, including Sanchokuan and Tamura Chokuou. Later artists who claimed descent from Soga Jasoku include Soga Shohaku (1730-81).

Soga Chokuan paintings are held at Myoshin-ji and Kitano Tenman-gu temples in Kyoto, as well as Unmon-ji temple in Hyogo. Paintings by Soga Nichokuan are held at Daitoku-ji temple in Kyoto, Fumon-in in Wakayama, and Kosan-ji and Choen-ji in Hiroshima. Works by both Chokuan and Nicokuan are also preserved at a number of temples on Mount Koya in Wakayama. The pair of screens by Nichokuan held at Daitoku-ji temple is registered as an Important Cultural Property.

In 1989, an important exhibition with an accompanying catalogue was held in Nara. It was dedicated to the screen and scroll paintings of Soga Chokuan and Nichokuan. Paintings of Soga Chokuan and Nichokuan; Elizabeth Ann Lillehoj, Nara Prefectural Museum of Art (1989).