Momoyama Period (1573–1615)

  • Stationery box
    1987.82ab
  • Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons
    1987.342.1,2
  • Whose Sleeves? (Tagasode)
    29.100.493-4
  • Dish with a handle (tebachi) in the shape of a double fan
    1975.268.443
  • Poem page mounted as a hanging scroll
    1975.268.59
  • Helmet (Zukinnari Kabuto)
    36.25.81
  • Shoin Room
    shoin_room
  • Wine container
    1980.6
  • Takanobu
    2006.42.1,.2
  • Scenes from the Tale of Genji: The Royal Outing (Miyuki, chapter 29), A Boat upon the Waters (Ukifune, chapter 51), and The Gatehouse (Sekiya, chapter 16)
    55.94.1,2

Essay

With the decline of Ashikaga power in the 1560s, the feudal barons, or daimyos, began their struggle for control of Japan. The ensuing four decades of constant warfare are known as the Momoyama (Peach Hill) period. The name derives from the site, in a Kyoto suburb, on which Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536–1598) built his Fushimi Castle. Unity was gradually restored through the efforts of three warlords. The first, Oda Nobunaga (1534–1582), took control of Kyoto and deposed the last Ashikaga shogun through military might and political acuity. He was followed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who continued the campaign to reunite Japan. Peace was finally restored by one of Hideyoshi’s generals, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616).

The decorative style that is the hallmark of Momoyama art had its inception in the early sixteenth century and lasted well into the seventeenth. On the one hand, the art of this period was characterized by a robust, opulent, and dynamic style, with gold lavishly applied to architecture, furnishings, paintings, and garments. The ostentatiously decorated fortresses built by the daimyo for protection and to flaunt their newly acquired power exemplified this grandeur. On the other hand, the military elite also supported a counter-aesthetic of rustic simplicity, most fully expressed in the form of the tea ceremony that favored weathered, unpretentious, and imperfect settings and utensils.

During this era, the attention of the Japanese was more than usually drawn beyond its shores. In addition to the continued trade with and travel to and from China and Korea, Toyotomi Hideyoshi instigated two devastating invasions of the Korean peninsula with the ultimate goal of invading China. The arrival of Portuguese and Dutch merchants and Catholic missionaries brought an awareness of different religions, new technologies, and previously unknown markets and goods to Japanese society. Over time, these foreign influences blended with native Japanese culture in myriad and long-lasting ways.

Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

October 2002

Citation

Department of Asian Art. “Momoyama Period (1573–1615).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/momo/hd_momo.htm (October 2002)

Further Reading

Hickman, Money L., ed. Japan's Golden Age: Momoyama. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996.

Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004.

Murase, Miyeko. Bridge of Dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese Art. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. See on MetPublications

Shimizu, Yoshiaki, ed. Japan: The Shaping of Daimyo Culture, 1185–1868. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1988.

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