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Soga Shōhaku is among the select group of painters written into Japanese art history as so-called “eccentric painters” in the mid-20th century for his unorthodox painting style. This rare polychromatic screen was painted at the height of his powers of pictorial grotesquerie. It depicts a famous episode from the 14th-century war epic the Tale of the Heike, in which the warriors Kagesue (left, in red) and Takatsuna (right, in green) compete for the honor of being the first to cross the River Uji after retreating enemy troops have destroyed the bridge. As they approach the churning water, Takatsuna tricks Kagesue into thinking his saddle is loose. When Kagesue leans down to check, Takatsuna rushes past him to claim the victory. Shōhaku paints Takatsuna with a pale, mask-like face; his sinister air is magnified by the fangs of his horse, Ikezumi (“Mortal Eater”).

Details

  • Title: Race at Uji River
  • Creator: Soga Shōhaku
  • Creator Lifespan: 1730–1781
  • Date Created: Edo period, c. 1764
  • Credit Line: Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
  • External Link: Harvard Art Museums
  • Medium: Six-panel folding screen; ink, color, and gold on paper

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