Hirata Donin

Kozuka depicting views of Mt. Fuji

Edo perido, 17th century 

NBTHK 40th Juyo Tōsogu

Hakogaki by Sato Kanzan


Mt. Fuji is depicted by Donin in four different settings, using his typical shippo (cloisonné) technique: among clouds, under the moon, next to a pine forest, and with a clear sky.

The shippo technique involves applying glass powder, yuyaku, to a metal base and then melting the glass in a kiln. This ancient technique existed as early as the Asuka period, and some specimens of works made with this technique are preserved in the Shosoin treasury in Nara. After this period, however, the technique disappeared, and there is no record of shippo works until the end of the Muromachi period.

Hirata Donin began his career in Kyoto. In 1611, following a commission from Tokugawa Ieyasu, he began working exclusively for the shogunate, and he then moved to Edo. His peculiar technique made him famous throughout Japan, and his works are unique in the artistic production of the early Edo period. Hirata's technique is different from that known so far, and the works do not resemble the opaque doro-shippo used up to that time. Donin in fact used transparent yuyaku and was thus able to produce a unique effect. The Hirata family passed down the technique invented by Donin as "issi-soden," that is, taught only to their sons or direct successors, and such a "workshop secret" remained until the Meiji period.

These four kozuka feature a shiny shakudo background and depict the mountain in blue-green tones, covered in white snow. The images also feature red, green, yellow, and deep blue colors and gold inlays, chiseled details, and others with silver and gold inlays (suemon zogan)

All of these kozuka are excellent works, made in the characteristic style of the first Hirata generation, Donin, to whom they can undoubtedly be attributed, although, as is the norm, unsigned.


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