[Japan: 17th or 18th century].
In the seventh and eighth centuries, when trade flourished with the rest of Asia, especially Korea and China, Japanese nobility melded foreign dance and music traditions with native Shinto songs. This amalgam was eventually incorporated into official court functions and became so important that it even merited the establishment of a ministry of dance in 701. Trained court nobles and professionals were the only ones permitted to execute these complex choreographies. Bugaku (now known as gagaku) was a type of dance performed at the imperial court during the Edo period.
At the beginning of the scroll, which takes place in the emperor’s palace, one sees large drums, called dadaiko, framed by flames and dragons. On top of one of the larger drums there is a motif of the sun. These drums are accompanied by musicians playing a mouth organ (sho), a bamboo flute (ryuteki), and smaller drums in the gakuya (the musicians’ section). They sit under an elaborately decorated banner and provide a steady rhythm for the dancers on stage before them. The elevated stage (takabutai), where two dancers are performing enbu, is adorned with a highly ornate brocade drape.
This scroll is illustrated with the kingin deie method, in which gold or silver is mixed with animal glue then pasted onto the scroll. This rare technique provides an almost three-dimensional quality to the images.
The scroll depicts 43 distinct dances, each with unique costumes. The costumes are particularly well-rendered in bright red, orange, teal, blue, black, grey, etc., and many display intricate and mesmerizing patterns. The head-pieces, costumes, and props are all masterfully portrayed. Gold is featured prominently in many of the costumes and throughout the scroll there are “mists” of gold painted in the background.
Above each set of dancers, the name of the dance is written. They include: manzairaku, engiraku, katen, karyobin, kocho, komaboko, seigaiha, genjoraku, dakyuraku, konju, bato, kitoku, bairo, ryoo, and nasori.
At the end of the scroll, there is another view of the gakuya from a diiferent perspective showing the backs of the drums which are exquisitely decorated in silver.
Fine condition. Several images have some creasing but this is not serious.
Item ID: 5733