gasan 画賛
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
A kind of poetic inscription, added to a blank area above or next to a completed painting. Typically, this inscription gives expression to the aesthetic value or content of the work, in the form of a poem or commentary with religious implications. In some cases, the inscription was written by a contemporary of the artist: a friend, associate, or patron; in other cases, the inscription was written long after the painting was completed by a connoisseur or collector. The practice of adding a written text to a painting dates to the Heian period, when excerpts from sutras and Buddhist legends were written in ink on colored cardboard squares *shikishigata 色紙形, attached to Buddhist paintings and portraits. Poems waka 和歌 were also inscribed on shikishigata attached to sliding and folding screens (*shouji-e 障子絵 and *byoubu-e 屏風絵). Gasan imported from China into Japan (mainly by Zen monks) in the 13c and 14c soon became the standard form. Portraits of Zen monks inscribed by the sitter were called *jisanzou 自賛像. Also influential during this period were Chinese literati theories on the unity of painting and poetry. During the Ouei 応永 era (1394-1428), the *shigajiku 詩画軸 art form, in which a simple ink painting was embellished with a complementary inscription, was popular among the ruling elite and practitioners of Zen. Inscription and painting were intended to be appreciated together. Like shigajiku, there are many examples of *jiga jisan 自画自賛, when both painting and inscription are the work of one person. Poetic inscriptions that document the circumstances surrounding the production of a painting are also called daishi 題詩 or daigo 題語, and the distinction between these terms and gasan is not always clearly drawn. The term daisan 題賛, for example, includes both daishi (or daigo) and gasan.


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