Advanced Search

K-12 Educator
K-12 Student
Museum Visitor
UMMA Docent
UMMA Staff
University Faculty
University Student
Between and Mortarboard


UMMA Object Specific Fields






Query builder

Portrait of Princess Soto'ori

Accession Number
1955/1.262

Title
Portrait of Princess Soto'ori

Artist(s)
Tosa Mitsuoki

Artist Nationality
Japanese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
late 17th century

Medium & Support
ink and color on silk

Dimensions
38 1/2 in x 14 in (97.8 cm x 35.6 cm);38 1/2 in x 14 in (97.8 cm x 35.6 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Province M. Henry

Label copy
In this intimate portrait, Princess Ito’ori smiles with anticipation, having just spotted a spider coming down from the ceiling. This curious imagery alludes to a Heian period (794–1185) belief that a woman could foretell in the dancing motions of a spider the swift approach of her lover.
Tosa Mitsuoki was a member of the Tosa family of painters, who were known for their use of vivid colors, fine details, and subject matter from the classical era. When Mitsuoki inherited his father’s position, the Tosa school had entered its decline; he revived it by incorporating the style of the Kanô school, the dominant art school in Edo-period Japan. As a result, Mitsuoki and subsequent Tosa painters were able to enjoy the patronage of the powerful samurai class.
(Label for UMMA Japanese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

; Label copy
Tosa Mitsuoki
Japanese, 1617–1691
Portrait of Princess Soto'ori
Edo period (1615–1868)
2nd half of 17th century
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Province M. Henry, 1955/1.262

In this intimate portrait, the legendary beauty and poet Princess Soto’ori smiles with anticipation, having just spotted a spider coming down from the ceiling. In the Heian period (794–1185) it was believed that a woman could foretell in the dancing motions of a spider the swift approach of her lover; one of Soto’ori’s poems describes a spider making a nest and the expectation of a lover’s arrival.

Tosa Mitsuoki was a member of the Tosa family of painters, who were known for their use of vivid colors, fine details, and subject matter from the classical era. When Mitsuoki inherited his father’s position, the Tosa school had entered its decline; he revived it by incorporating the style of the Kanô school, the dominant art school in Edo-period Japan. As a result, Mitsuoki and subsequent Tosa painters were able to enjoy the patronage of the powerful samurai class.

Subject matter
Soto'ori-hime was the younger sister of Ôsaka no Onakatsu hime, the wife of Inkyô tennô (412-453 CE) whom that Emperor installed in his palace. She was of peerless beauty and a poetess. She is often represented as a Court Lady, holding in her hand a shuttle, or in the act of weaving, being credited with the introduction of silk weaving into Japan.

Physical Description
This hanging scroll depicts a female figure sitting against a blank background. She wears multiple layers of kimono. Her hair is black and long, and her face white. She is watching a spider, descending from ceiling; her arms are extending in front as if she is trying to catch it. A screen of white and brown fabric is on her right, and an oil lamp with flame is on the other side. Three rolls of paper are placed in front of her. The artist's signature and seal are on the left lower corner.

The painting is mounted on light blue brocade with designs of auspicious characters and objects, including treasures, double gourds, and the character for “longevity". The sides are made of golden brocade, but the gold foil is almost worn out.

Warm holes on the upper right side, some small stains and dark lines on the top and near the face of the figure. Two repaired damages on the lower right corner. Some warm holes on the mounting as well. The wooden scroll bar is black lacquered.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Primary Object Type
hanging scroll

Additional Object Classification(s)
Painting

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form. Keywords
Araneae (order)
Tosa School
figures (representations)
kimonos
literary theory
princesses
royalty (nobility)

5 Related Resources

Japan Pax Tokugawa 1600-1868
(Part of: Empires and Colonialism)
Samurai
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
School Pictures Tour
(Part of: Docent Thematic Tours)
Silk
(Part of: Exchange and Influence on Global Trade Routes)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved