Essays In Idleness

Over a century after Kenko completed Essays in Idleness in the closing years of the Kamakura period (probably around 1333), the work began to gain a sympathetic reception among the poets and linked-verse masters of the Muromachi period (1336-1573).

In the Edo period (1600-1868), with the shogunate’s encouragement of scholarship and the development of printing technologies, the essays swiftly captured a wide readership.

Yusetsu, who was only eighteen when his father died, went through a period of hardship when he earned a living as a commercial artist operating an eya, a shop that produced and sold a variety of painted goods to order, because the Kaiho School his father had founded still lacked the broad-based support necessary for stability as a school of painters.

Then Kasuga-no-Tsubone (1579-1643), who had served as wet nurse to Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun, recommended Yusetsu to the shogun to repay the kindness his father, Yusho, had shown her, and Yusetsu found himself in the position of a salaried artist in the service of Iemitsu.

Appreciation of classical literature flourished in the early Edo period in the context of a trend for reviving classical culture in which the Emperor Go-Mizunoo (1596-1680) played a central role.

With a rapid increase in demand for paintings with themes taken from classical literature, large numbers of Tsurezure-e were produced in this period.

This section marks the first public display of the newly acquired handscrolls and offers a must-see experience of famous scenes from Essays in Idleness.

Kaiho Yusetsu (1598-1677), who painted the twenty-volume Tsurezuregusa hand scrolls, was the son of Kaiho Yusho (1533-1615), a leading Momoyama-period painter.

The set of 244 episodes into which it is now conventionally divided is the work of Kitamura Kigin, poet, actor and classical scholar.

He produced the 244-episode division of the Tsurezuregusa Mondansho, which was published in 1667.


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