Ariwara No Narihira
Artist/maker unknown, Japanese
Poetry and poets have been highly revered in Japan for over one thousand years. As early as the tenth century, Japanese emperors commissioned anthologies of the works of the famous poets. By the twelfth century, aristocrats had begun illustrating handscrolls made of paper or silk with imaginary portraits of poets. The majority of such handscrolls depict members of a group known as the Thirty-Six Immortal Poets, who were among the popular authors of the past. By the fifteenth century, low-ranking rural aristocrats and village associations began to donate portraits of poets painted on wooden votive plaques (like this one, part of a rare set) to shrines and temples.