Report on the 6th Research Seminar on the

Saray Albums


Date/Time: July 17, 1999 (Sat.), 13:00-18:00

Location: Institute of Oriental Culture,The University of Tokyo



Summary of individual presentations



"Rock Faces" and "Composite Animals" seen in the Saray Album H. 2153 and the Development of Their Iconography


KOBAYASHI Kazue (Waseda University)


Human and animal iconography, formed by combining images of humans and/or animals, is found in Japanese art. The "composite paintings" and "playful paintings" of Utagawa Kuniyoshi, who was active in the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, are examples. The paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, a 16th century Italian painter, are suggested as the origin of such paintings. However, it has also been suggested that Arcimboldo was influenced by the "composite animal" paintings popular under the Mughals (16th Century).


There are many theories regarding the origin of the Mughal "composite animal" paintings. One is that Arcimboldo's paintings preceded and influenced them. Another is that these paintings depict the games which were actually played in the Mughal court. It has also been suggested that their origin can be found in the "rock faces" found in Persian landscape paintings. The earliest example of such "rock faces" in Persia is the Kalila wa Dimna made under the Jalayrids in the second half of the 14th century. However, there are examples of "composite animal" paintings among the Saray Albums currently being studied at the Topkapi Sarayi Museum. Notably, on f. 62a of H.2153, there is a page which features an image of a dragon-like creature composed of parts of many animals. This "dragon" may be considered a primitive example of a composite animal painting. Further, a painting on f. 71b provides an example of the addition of human and dragon faces in a pattern. It seems that the concept of adding various designs to a pattern originated here and was later adopted and continued in Mughal painting. In short, the "composite animal" paintings depicting aspects of camels and horses are not directly derived from rock faces. Two parallel iconographical lineages exist and we can see signs of both in the Saray Albums.


2) Chinese Thrones: Contribution to the study of thrones depicted in Ilkhanid paintings


MURANO Hiroshi (Tokai University)


Hiroshi Murano suggested a method of analyzing the lineages of Chinese thrones based on the forms found in artifacts and depicted images. This method may also be used to analyze the thrones found in the Saray Albums.


In Japan, there has been no systematic research done on Chinese furniture and even in China, no thorough research was published until 1975-76. The study of historical evidence is crucial in the field of furniture studies, but because there are so many appellations used to refer to furniture in China, it is difficult to identify the images depicted in paintings.


In general, furniture and architecture are closely related. In China, the architecture of wooden palaces has played a major role in the field of architecture, leading to improvements in woodworking techniques. Also, wooden architecture is structure-based and employs forms characterized by straight lines. Thus, furniture developed there were meant to be combined with each other to be fit on the straight lines. Wooden architecture also has the advantage that decorative features can be changed and added without changing the basic structure.


Furniture for seating, including thrones, are related to the customs of people. In China, with its traditional earthen floor architecture, it was customary to sit on the ground since ancient times. It is during the period from the Five Dynasties to the Song Period that chairs were introduced to China, and brought about changes in lifestyles. Excavations from the Warring States Period (circa. 3rd century B.C.) prior to that, have yielded pieces of furniture known as chuang, which were platforms measuring approximately 220 cm in length, 140 cm in width and 60 cm in height, which were used as beds. Later, it seems that people began to sit on these chuang and the appellation zuochuang ("seat chuang") came into use. Still later, it is thought that the huzuo, a folding chair, was introduced through contact with other ethnic groups from the North. Chairs with backboards were introduced from India along with Buddhism and later became firmly established in Chinese culture. From the end of the Song Period to the Yuan Period, people in paintings are often depicted as seated in chairs.



3) Paintings of Flowers and Birds in the Saray Albums

SUGIMURA Toh (Ryukoku University)


There are many paintings with Chinese designs in the Saray Albums and among these are "paintings of flowers and birds" done in the Chinese style. Among these "paintings of flowers and birds" painted on silk are images of loquat and a pair of birds, in a style known as "branches with flowers." One such painting bears the signature of a painter named Ustad 'Ali; another has the signature and seal of the artist in cinnabar; and it has been confirmed that some of these paintings are works of Chinese artists. However, there are pieces in which the composition of the original Chinese paintings were altered to suit Persian tastes. These images are valuable for research on the processes and changes that Chinese designs underwent.


Summary by ABE Katsuhiko