Art/ Collection/ Art Object


20th century
Various woods, ivory, metal, nylon, tortoiseshell, abalone, lacquerwork
L. 187.9 cm (74 in.); W. 27.9 cm (11 in.); Diam. 17.8 cm (7 in..)
Chordophone-Zither-plucked-long zither
Credit Line:
Gift of the Todes Family, 1986
Accession Number:
Not on view
Koto music was introduced into Japan during the Nara period (710–84). It developed in the court and gradually entered the home as a sign of good breeding for daughters of the rising commercial class as well as those of the nobility. Nylon stringing and plastic bridges and plectrums are now replacing the traditional materials—silk for strings and ivory for its movable bridges (ji) and plectrums (tsume). Paulonia remains the wood used for the body of the zither. The lacquerwork on the sides shows scenes from "The Tale of Genji." Prince Genji consoled himself by playing the koto. Japanese romantic stories often employ the literary device of discovering a missing heroine by hearing her koto music.
Marking: (Japanese calligraphy on paper in lower soundhole): untranslated (1994).
Todes Family
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