Like the poetry cards to the left, this work was probably once part of a thirty-six card ensemble. It bears the lunar calendar date of “11th year of Keichō , 11th month, 11th day” and is one of sixteen extant dated cards. This was date on which courtier Konoe Nobutada (1565–1614) retired from the prestigious post of imperial regent (kanpaku). Kōetsu, Shōkado Shōjō (1584–1639), and Nobutada, a renowned calligrapher, were known as the three “great brushes” of the Kan’ei era (1624–44).
The poem by Fujiwara no Ietaka (1138–1237), taken from the Shinkokin wakashū (New Anthology of Poems Past and Present), circa 1205–10, is a melancholy autumnal verse. The lush underpainting of pines and clouds is a well-known Sōtatsu motif (also seen in the Waves at Matsushima screens in the first gallery). The cloud motif can be found on the frontispiece of the Heike nōkyō, a lavishly decorated set of Lotus Sutra texts commissioned by the powerful Taira clan in the 1160s. Sōtatsu repaired parts of this treasure in the early 1600s, and its designs deeply influenced his later work.
The motif suggests safe shores, longevity, and a graceful conclusion. This, combined with the sober verse, offers a deeply nuanced meditation, a seemingly calculated disregard for the banal and cheerful celebratory approach.
Poem Card from the Shinkokin wakashū (New Anthology of Poems Past and Present) with Design of Pine on a Beach
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637), calligrapher
Card mounted on a hanging scroll
Gold, silver, and ink on paper
Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund, 1987.60