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Palace and horserace at Kamo Shrine, approx. 1615–1650

Palace and horserace at Kamo Shrine

Palace and horserace at Kamo Shrine, approx. 16151650. Six panel folding screen; ink, colors and gold on paper. Japan. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D81.

This pair of screens depicts two of Kyoto’s famous places, a palace in the right screen and a horserace at Kamo Shrine in the left.  Most likely Nijo Palace, built in 1600 by Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542–1616), the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, the palace was constructed to serve as the residence of the shogun when he visited Kyoto from Edo (present-day Tokyo), where he received visits by imperial courtiers.  This screen shows a cart that has been pulled by an ox across the bridge over the moat that surrounds the buildings; two courtiers are standing by the cart. Samurai officials are seated in rows on both sides of the wide pathway; and mounted samurai officials are getting ready to line up.

The left screen depicts a horserace taking place in the Kamo Shrine compound. The race was part of the shrine’ s Shinto ceremonial. In this contest between two groups of ten riders specially dressed for the occasion, one rider from each group would race to the goal, where judges waited. The winners were rewarded, usually with rolls of white silk. The scene shows two riders engaged in a heated race on a track bordered by temporary fences. Many spectators are watching from both sides of the track.

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