Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of a Warrior

Unidentified Artist Japanese, late 16th century
Momoyama period (1573–1615)
late 16th century
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
Image: 47 13/16 x 33 9/16 in. (121.4 x 85.2 cm) Overall with mounting: 86 3/4 x 41 5/8 in. (220.3 x 105.7 cm) Overall with knobs: 86 3/4 x 45 1/8 in. (220.3 x 114.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, 2003 Benefit Fund, 2004
Accession Number:
Not on view
This newly discovered painting depicting an unidentified warrior is executed at a size usually reserved for portraits of emperors and shoguns, and it ranks among the largest and finest secular portraits from Japan. Although the family crest of wild orange is associated with the Shibata family of the late sixteenth century, the sitter's exact identity remains unknown.
The unnamed samurai, clearly an important member of a warrior clan, is depicted grasping the end of his long beard, which was banned in the seventeenth century as an expression of antiestablishment sentiment and unwelcome individualism. His eyes seem to twinkle with mischievous pleasure. Such lively, informal representation was the norm in secular depictions of deceased people, while more formality was standard in portraits of those still living. Details of the sitter's robe and swords also point to a late-sixteenth-century date for the painting.
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