These beautifully drawn paintings are in the karako (Chinese children) tradition of painting which was prevalent in Japan, starting in the early Edo period. Karako is a term for a certain kind of pictorial art with the constant theme of children dressed in Chinese clothing, with their hair in Chinese style with partially shaved heads.
These scrolls are painted with the highest skill and nuance. The details are beautifully executed in rich colors, many are heightened in gold, and have magnificent nuances of shading and detail. We have been unable to identify the artist but he must have been one of the leading painters of his time.
Cockfighting has a long history in Japan and China and was a frequent theme in art and literature. All the scenes are framed, top and bottom, with rich gold clouds. The first scene in the first scroll depicts a group of “Chinese” boys at the waterfront transporting their fowl in elaborate baskets lined with tiger and leopard skins. All the costumes of the boys throughout the three scrolls are highly elaborate and richly heightened with vivid colors and gold. There are a few adults feeding the birds and supervising the activities. The next scene is a cockfight with a noble couple and their entourage watching from a highly decorated house. The next scene, shows the boys caring for their birds in front of a palatial building and garden, observed by a group of elders. Next, we see a fine garden with rocks and tropical trees. Then we see naked boys swimming in the sea (karako asobi; “Chinese boys playing”) with a group of musicians playing in an elaborate boat with a dragon’s head and a canopy.
The second scroll shows another boat with a phoenix head. This ship is for fishing and we see fishing nets in the water. Then we see a cockfight on a boat. This is followed by boys preparing their birds for another cockfight. There is another cockfight on a ship with an elaborately decorated deck.
The third scroll begins with a cockfight on land with a judge watching, boys training their birds by forcing them to exercise and another scene of cockfighting. And here there is a discontinuity of scenes (clearly a scene has been removed). At the end there is a procession of boys carrying their birds entering the gate of a palace with a group of noblemen waiting to see the cockfight.
In fine condition.
Item ID: 5774