emaki 絵巻
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
 
Also called emakimono 絵巻物, or less commonly *ekotoba 絵詞. Painting format of several genres where a long painting e 絵 or series of paintings illustrates a narrative; done on paper or silk, wound maki 巻 into a scroll, makimono 巻物 or *kansubon 巻子本 around a roller *jiku 軸 of ivory or wood. Printed versions are also known. The scroll is traditionally unrolled one section at a time in the hands of a single viewer, usually while laid on a low table, and thus is called a handscroll in distinction to the hanging scroll format *kakejiku 掛軸. Typically a text requires a set of several handscrolls. The text might be a romance monogatari 物語, a tale setsuwa 説話, biography denki 伝記, or historical and/or religious account engi 縁起. A passage of text *kotobagaki 詞書 precedes each illustration, with a colophon passage often at the end of the set. In some works the text was bound in a separate scroll or booklet from the paintings. Many emaki average 10m in length and around 25cms in width, but there are no fixed dimensions.
The viewer, unrolling with the left hand while re-rolling with the right hand to expose about 30cms (or a comfortable arm span) at a time, looks at the paintings from right to left in a temporal and special progression. The intimacy of the experience and constraints of the format influenced the development of compositional devices and stylistic technique of *yamato-e やまと絵.
The term emaki does not apply to non-narrative painting done in the handscroll format, such as ink landscape painting. This is called by the Chinese derived term for illustrated handscrolls *gakan 画巻. In Japan, even Chinese narrative handscroll paintings are called gakan, leaving the term emaki exclusively for Japanese examples, most often in the yamato-e tradition.
The handscroll format, originally used for written texts such as sutras, was introduced into Japan from the Asian continent probably by the 8c., the earliest extant emaki in Japan are several versions/fragments of the Illustrated Sutra of Past and Present Cause and Effect, KAKO GENZAI INGAKYOU 過去現在因果経 (8-9c) a didactic text about the life of the historical Buddha *Shaka 釈迦. The text in clerical Chinese script is written along the lower half while illustrations run without interruption in the upper register. This is believed to have been copied from Chinese prototypes and this style was afterwards rarely employed by Japanese artists. By the 9-10c, Japanese used the emaki format to create handscrolls of native tales and romances. The most outstanding Heian period example is the Illustrated Handscroll of the Tale of Genji, Genji monogatari emaki 源氏物語絵巻 (Tokugawa Reimeikai 徳川黎明会 Foundation, Gotou 五島 Museum and Tokyo National Museum) from the first half of the 12c (ca. 1230) which exists in fragmentary form today. The lyrical or emotional highpoints in the novel were chosen for illustration in *tsukuri-e つくり絵 techniques (see *genji-e 源氏絵).
The late 12c narrative handscroll of the Legends of Mt. Shigi, Shigisan engi emaki 信貴山縁起絵巻 (Chougosonshiji 朝護孫子寺, Nara), illustrates miraculous tales associated with the priest Myouren 命蓮 and the temple on Mt. Shigi. The painting style of this work stresses movement and action with a clear awareness and skillful manipulation of the possibilities of movement inherent in the format.
In the 13 and 14c the economic and political conditions allowed the emaki repertoire to expand. Popular themes included tales of battles gunki monogatari 軍記物語 biographies of high priests *kousouden-e 高僧伝絵 and founding stories of shrines and temples *shaji engi-e 社寺縁起絵, the latter as a result of popular religions which found this format useful for didactic purposes. The popularity of emaki waned only shortly after its peak in the Kamakura period when hanging scrolls or screen and wall paintings *shouheiga 障屏画 took precedence over narrative painting. Nevertheless, this narrative format was still part of the artists' repertory even in the Muromachi period (see *otogi zoushi 御伽草子). At this time a new type of more intimate emaki of narrower width called small pictures ko-e 小絵 was painted, often by amateurs.
In the 15c emaki received new impetus from the creative talents of Tosa Mitsunobu 土佐光信 (1434-1525) and continued to be painted, by *Tosaha 土佐派 artists up into the 19c.
Until the mid-Edo period paintings known today as emaki were called simply e. Furthermore, in the Edo period as the term emaki came into use, the term ekotoba , which derived from kotobagaki, and originally meant "words" or text in an illustrated narrative scroll (or a separate handscroll of such a text), came to be used interchangably with emaki. The titles in Japanese of several illustrated handscrolls, such as The Courtier Ban Dainagon, Ban Dainagon ekotoba 伴大納言絵詞 (Idemitsu 出光 Museum of Art, Tokyo)still contain the suffix ekotoba, although careful scholars now try to avoid such usage.
 
 

 
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