Fleet Horse

Inscriptions by Keijō Shūrin15-16th Century

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum
Kyoto, Japan

Ashikaga Takauji (1305–1358), the founder of the Ashikaga shogunate, had a favorite horse he would always ride into battle. It appears that this horse was included in a portrait of Takauji dressed in armour. The horse alone, however, was then copied in a separate painting without Takauji, this being the painting here. According to the inscription on the painting by Keijō Shūrin (1440–1518) of Shōkoku-ji Temple, Ashikaga Yoshizumi (1480–1511), the shogun at this time, commissioned the painting. He then kept the painting close by for the purpose of worshipping the memory of Takauji. It is also recorded that the painting was presented to the head of Renkiken, a building located in Jōtoku-in, a subtemple of the Shōkoku-ji. The head of Renkiken, Shūzan Eisū, was the son of Fushiminomiya Sadatsune(1426-1474), an imperial prince. It seems highly likely that it was upon Shūzan’s request that the inscription was made. The painter remains unclear, as the only record on the painting is “painter,” but if reconsidered in light of the shogun having commissioned this painting, there is no question that it would have been one of the important painters of the period. From the unvaried, carefully executed brush lines and the detailed depiction of the hairs, it is believed that the painter belonged to the yamato-e (Japanese painting) tradition rather than the Chinese painting tradition.
The inscription has been included in Kanrin koroshū (Forest of Writing Brushes, Collection of Gourds and Reeds), an anthology of poetry and prose, the editing for which occurred over a two-year period, from 1501 (Bunki 1) to 1503 (Bunki 3), confirming the date of composition.


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