|Artist / Origin||
Tosa Mitsunobu (Japanese, 1434–1525)
Region: East Asia
Late 15th–early 16th century
Period: 1400 CE - 1800 CE
Ink, color, and gold on paper
|Location||National Museum of Japanese History, Chiba Prefecture, Japan|
|Credit||National Museum of Japanese History, Chiba Prefecture, Japan|
|Melissa McCormickProfessor of Japanese Art and Culture, Harvard University|
Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004.
Mccormick, Melissa. Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll in Medieval Japan. Seattle: University of Washington, Press, 2009.
Stanley-Baker, Joan. Japanese Art, rev. and expanded ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000.
Utatane soshi emaki (A Wakeful Sleep)
Working in collaboration with the courtier-scholar Sanjonishi Sanetaka (1455–1537), imperial court painter Tosa Mitsunobu created some of the most impressive examples of the small narrative scrolls known as ko-e in fifteenth-century Japan.
Utatane soshi emaki (A Wakeful Sleep) is one of these. Like other scrolls in the genre, it is diminutive in size, and features a story that revolves around a sole protagonist.
A Wakeful Sleep is a notable example of a Japanese dream tale. This particular scroll tells the story of a young female courtier who falls asleep while gazing at the cherry tree in her garden. She dreams first of receiving a beautiful love letter, then later, of being visited by her lover—a man she has never met in real life. The images in A Wakeful Sleep occupy an ambiguous space between dreams and reality. In this particular image we see the woman sleeping, but are left to wonder whether we are looking at the world as it exists or the world conjured through her dreaming.
While touching on Buddhist ideas about the illusory nature of earthly desires, dreams also offer a space for the realization of fantasies that might not be possible in the real world. At the end of the story, the protagonist of A Wakeful Sleep is miraculously united with the man from her dreams.