National TreasureView of Amanohashidate

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  • Height 89.4cm Width 168.5cm
  • Kyoto National Museum
  • A甲228

While there is no signature or seal on the painting, the overall brush technique, composition, and the style of the calligraphy identifying the renowned places depicted in the painting have led the work to be attributed to the famous ink painter, Sesshû Tôyô (1420-1506?).
In the center of the work are the distinctive white sandbar and pine trees of Amanohashidate and the buildings of Chion-ji Temple, located in the north of Kyoto Prefecture. Beyond Amanohashidate is the Sea of Aso, on whose far shore stands the town of Fuchû with its temples and shrines crowded together. Towering over this expansive scenery is a massive mountain, home to Nariai-ji Temple and its complex. In the foreground, beneath Amanohashidate, is Miyazu Bay. Running along the bottom of the composition are the mountains of the lower tip of Kurita Peninsula.
While it is clear that the painting was based on direct observation, it is not a realistic rendition of the landscape. The high vantage point from which the scene was depicted does not actually exist. The mountain on which Nariai-ji Temple is located has been rendered as a soaring peak, while the shape of Fuchû has been attenuated so that it stretches out horizontally along the shore. In fact, recent scholarship suggests that the work reflects Sesshû's method of rearranging the elements of an actual landscape according to the compositional rules he had absorbed from his study of Chinese landscape painting. Clearly, this bird's-eye view was influenced by Chinese depictions of West Lake (near Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province) and other famous scenic spots.
The brushwork is extremely rough; indeed, the painting looks as if it had been done in a single, rushed sitting. It is this very quality, however, which gives the work its unique power and dynamism. Brushed onto a patchwork of twenty-one small pieces of different sized paper, irregularly pasted together and bearing traces of reworking, the painting was probably intended as a preparatory sketch rather than as a finished product.