OPTICC Third Six Weeks

Introduction: Usually when I think of art from the Renaissance, I think of realistic paintings using perspectives, cherub-like babies, pale women, and the use of the human body as art. This is because the Renaissance is usually associated with Europe, though it happened in many places other than Europe, such as Japan, where this painting was created. It is important for the people of today to understand that Europe isn’t the only place history comes from, and to show that even if one area of the world was going through something major like the Renaissance, other parts of the world were going through similar times.

Overview: The whole painting is mostly made up of gold, green, white, black, and red tones. The people in the painting are dressed in robes, most of them in white robes and some in green or brown patterned robes. A group of people are headed towards the lone man in the corner, with one man predominantly leading the group. Mountains, trees, and a building are in the background.

Parts: It seems very important to me that the lone man dressed in green robes is by himself on the far left while the man that is leading the group of people is in the center of the painting. The group of people following the man dressed in white robes are carrying things for him, showing that he is high up in the class system, for example, a man behind him is holding an umbrella over his head, another is carrying a throne or chair, most likely, for the man. There is a person on the right hand side of the painting near the building that is looking over at the group of people. This person seems to be of some significance though it is hard to say exactly what. Since they are standing next to what looks to be a waterwheel, meaning they are in a lower class, they might be wishing the fisherman well on his meeting with the emperor.

Title: The title of this painting is Meeting of Emperor Wen and Fisherman Lü Shang. This gives me more information about the painting, such as that the person that is leading the group of people must be the emperor since they are being treated like royalty. Also, this gives me the information that the emperor is to meet a fisherman- someone who is not high up in the class system. It is very interesting that two such people would meet.

Interpretation: The intent of this work seems to be to show the difference in social classes. The emperor has an entourage of people following him, with an umbrella, a makeshift throne, lanterns, and so much more while the fisherman is by himself. The upper class in this situation- and in most situations- is much more privileged while the lower class works hard as fishermen and still has to wait for something as exciting as meeting the emperor to change his life. This was also a legendary moment in history since a man of such a lower class was getting to meet the emperor.

Context: At the time that this painting was painted, which was around 1600, Japan was just establishing the Tokugawa Shogunate, also known as the Edo Period, which unified the country. Society reordered itself with a higher percentage of the merchant class, meaning lower class, though it was a 250 year long time of peace and stability for Japan. The people of the merchant class were not allowed to pursue any activities other than activities relating to agriculture as to not disrupt the flow of income for the upper class.

Conclusion: This painting seems to be showing an upper class person reaching out to a lower class person. The emperor seems to be enjoying himself, as does the fisherman who is probably honored to be meeting the emperor. This painting relates to what we are learning in class because we are currently learning about this time period, but when we learn about this time period, we mostly hear about Europe. This painting gives us an example of the art in a place other than Europe at this time, and of the culture. 

For full size image, click here.

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