rakkan 落款
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
An abbreviation of the term rakusei kanshiki 落成款識. Lit. inscription cast into ancient bronze vessels at completion. The signature and seal(s) of the artist added to a blank space at the edge of a completed painting. In addition to a signature and seal, this may include information concerning the work's date of execution, the place or circumstances of production, and the artist's age and official or honorary titles *soui 僧位. In cases where the artist inscribed a long prose passage or poem in the area above or next to the painting, the poem and signature are referred to as *jiga jisan 自画自賛 (see *gasan 画賛).
Although the practice of applying seals to documents goes back to the earliest records in Japan, the appending of seals to a finished painting appears to have become accepted only in the 12c. At this time signed and sealed Chinese paintings from the Southern Song and Yuan dynasties began to enter Japan. However, it was not until the late Muromachi period, with the rise in status of individual artists in Japan, that the custom of signing and affixing a seal to paintings became a regular part of Japanese artistic practice. The examination of signatures and seals is recognized as an extremely important means of establishing both the authorship and the authenticity of a work of art. Unfortunately, the high incidence of later additions or alterations, in some cases by contemporaries or followers of an artist, sometimes by connoisseurs in good faith, and sometimes by the unscrupulous, often makes rakkan less than completely reliable. Their value in art historical analyses should therefore be measured with caution.


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