Horses and Grooms in the Stable

Image Source: Cleveland Art Museum

Title: Horses and Grooms in the Stable
Artist: Unknown 
Era: Late 16th
Location: Honkoku-ji, Kyoto
Material: Color ink on paper
Dimensions: H: 5 ft 1 in (155 cm) x W 5 ft 6 3/4 in (169.5 cm)
Medium: One of two six-panel screens

Horses and Grooms in the stable utilizes the paneling of the screens to demarcate the stable borders along with the hierarchy of social class in the Edo period, separating status by both vertical and horizontal dimensions. Horses were an important part of a Samurai’s pride and appearance of wealth, and the spotless stables and very clean coats represent the amount of care these animals received. In this piece hierarchy of social class is distributed into two groups: left to right, and top to bottom. The upper portion of the screen, inside the stables, contains the stable hands. In this image, they are the most lower-class individual. On the lower portion of the screen, atop the tatami mats, remain the upper-class individuals of the social hierarchy. Not pictured are the wealthy samurai, represented by only their armor on a stand, and in decreasing order of importance from left to right are those with ceremonial duties (have the eboshi), a bald open-robed monk, lower-ranking samurai, and what appears to be a son of a lower-ranking samurai dressed as a falconer. The furthest distance between two represented groups in this piece is between the armor of the wealthy samurai and the falconer boy, which is also the furthest gap of the upper social hierarchy in this image. The stables were a social showplace when visited, and the use of activity and Go being played on the tatami mats highlights the course of openness these stables required as a showpiece.


Author: Christian Jacobsen

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