Tosa Mitsuoki

Japanese (1617–1691)

The Poetesse Yoshitomo No Shibo


Album leaf mounted as hanging scroll Ink and color with gold on silk

Gift of Mrs. Howard Acheson, Sr. in memory of her husband and her son, Howard Acheson, Jr.


Classic in style and content, this elegant painting is attributed to the last important artist of the Tosa School, who was painter to the Imperial court in Kyoto (1654–1681). It is part of his popular series entitled One Hundred Poets and depicts an early-eleventh-century poetess from the prominent Fujiwara family. Her poem, written on the right, translates:

If in the future it will be difficult for him to feel that he cannot forget me, may my life, alas, come to an end today.

Its melancholy tone reflects on the convention of wives residing at court being visited by their husbands as often as the latter would choose “not to forget” them. The poetess suggests that the potential misery of prolonged neglect is best ended by immediate cessation of life.

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