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Selected Works

An Exiled Emperor on Okinoshima
Kimbell Art Museum
Attributed to Mitsushige, Japanese, of the Tosa school
c. 1600, Momoyama period (1573-1615)
Six-fold screen, ink, mineral pigments, and silver on paper
58 1/4 x 237 in. (148 x 348 cm)
Acquired in 1971

Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

The solitary figure sitting cross-legged on the edge of a remote beach in Japan has traditionally been identified as the emperor Godaigo (r. 1318-1389). Godaigo was the second of only two Japanese emperors exiled to Okinoshima. Exile was a common punishment for political crimes throughout Japan's history, and Godaigo's story is recounted in the historical classic, the Masukagami. The 96th emperor of Japan, Godaigo was exiled as a political prisoner after two failed attempts to overthrow the ruling shogunate. According to commonly held belief, the scene depicted here actually portrays the end of Godaigo's exile, when a loyal supporter brings him a fishing boat by which to make his escape. The vividly drawn story translated well to a visual medium.

Art historian Ichimatsu Tanaka challenged this long-held notion in a 1960 article, "Concerning a Screen Painting of Exile on Oki," proposing that the man represented here may be the other emperor exiled to Okinoshima, Gotoba-in (r. 1184-1198). His exile, too, was chronicled in the Masukagami. Gotoba-in was imprisoned for leading a doomed rebellion intended to return Kyoto's deposed nobility to power. The passage depicting the events of Gotoba-in's exile was immensely popular as literature, told in Gotoba-in's own words. In this first-person account, Gotoba-in, known as a talented poet and musician, expresses his distress over his isolation. The only people he sees, he laments, are the island's fishermen at work. In Tanaka's view this scene is one of despair, not triumph, as it does not depict rescue from exile but continuation of it.

Tanaka's speculation over the painting's origin, published some 40 years ago, has neither been refuted nor confirmed. In either case, the historical record confirms the existence and the fate of both Godaigo and Gotoba-in. Which one is memorialized on the screen may always be the subject of controversy; in either case, both the majesty and the isolation of the scene remain.

The six-fold screen An Exiled Emperor on Okinoshima is part of the Kimbell Art Museum's Asian Art collection. It was acquired in 1971.

American Gothic | Ceremonial Drum | City Landscape | The Hours of Queen Isabella the Catholic
Stag at Sharkey's | Still Life with Two Lemons | An Exiled Emperor on Okinoshima
Maison Maria with a View of Château Noir | Standing Bodhisattva | Mother About to Wash Her Sleepy Child
Netsuke: Baku, Monster Who Eats Nightmares | Ocean Park Series #49 | Bis Poles | Royal Statuary of Hatshepsut
Tughra of Suleyman the Magnificent | The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit | Grand Piano | Mimbres Bowl

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