Important Cultural PropertySeating Order of Courtiers

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  • Handscroll
  • Height 36.2cm Length: 521.6cm
  • Kyoto National Museum
  • A甲233

Fifty-seven court nobles―including a regent, a chancellor, and ministers―are depicted in two rows. The figures in the upper row face forward to the viewer, while those in the lower row have their backs with their faces turned to the side or to the back. Once entitled Nenjû Gyôji Chakuza Zukan (Illustrated Scroll of the Seating Order at Annual Events), this work depicts seated portraits of historical officials rather than representing an actual event. A painting of the seating order of princes and regents owned by the Imperial Household Agency tells us that this scroll begins with Regent Chancellor Fujiwara Tadamichi (1097-1164) and ends with the chancellor and ministers appointed in 1252 (Kenchô 4).
It has traditionally been attributed to the painter-poet Fujiwara Nobuzane (1177-1265), known for his nise-e (realistic portraits); stylistically, the use of fine lines in layers to convey the detailed features of each courtier suggests that the artist indeed came from the nise-e lineage of Nobuzane and his father Takanobu (1142-1205). In addition to traditional designs for formal court robes, such as undulating vertical bands, reishi mushrooms, and butterflies and birds, the use of unusual motifs such as radishes and turnips, unbefitting formal court costumes, suggests that this painting may have been a preliminary underdrawing.