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Unformatted text preview: one of the finest of these portrait-type genre works of the Momoyama epoch is the so-called Matsuura Screen (fig. 47). It depicts eighteen women engaged in various casual activities and pastimes, some of which reveal the special fashions and fads of the day. Two women, for example, are playing cards, a game introduced by the Portuguese; another accepts from a companion a long-stemmed pipe containing tobacco, which was Fig. 47 Matsuura Screen (Museum Yamato Bunkakan) The Country Unified 160 also brought to Japan by Westerners in the sixteenth century; and still another woman plucks the samisen, a three-stringed, banjo-like musical instrument of the Ryukyus that first became popular in Japan around the 1590s. Apart from the activities in which its subjects are engaged, the Matsuura Screen is notable for at least two reasons: first, for the skillful manner in which the artist has arranged his women, so that they strike an exceptionally varied and rhythmically interlocking series of poses; and second, for the dazzlingly patterned kimonos the women are wearing. Some authorities have conjectured, on the basis of the studied placement of the figures and the particularly flat appearance of their attire, almost as though it consisted of pieces of material pasted onto the surface of the picture, that the Matsuura Screen was actually produced as an advertisement or a merchant’s display poster. In any event, it reveals the great skill that artists of this age were capable of in handling the genre-type portraits that were to serve as forerunners of the famous “pictures of the floating world” (to be discussed in the next chapter). One of the most prominent people of the Momoyama cultural scene was the noted tea master and arbiter of taste, Sen no Rikyû (1521–91). Descended from a Sakai merchant house, Rikyû became a devoted practitioner of the classical tea ceremony. The putative founder of this ceremony, as noted in the last chapter, was Shukò, a man of the Higashiyama epoch who died in 1502. During the sixteen...
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