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Ogawa Haritsu (1663–1747) 小川破笠 Animal Story Scroll, Edo period (1615–1868). Handscroll, ink, color, and gold on paper Gift of the Robert F. Blum Estate 1906.4. Cincinnati Art Museum.

CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Art Museum is home to one of the oldest and most extensive Japanese art collections among all U.S. museums. Masterpieces of Japanese Art, on view Feb. 14 – Aug. 30, features 100 items from the Cincinnati Art Museum’s permanent Japanese art collection which tell the fascinating stories of Cincinnatians who traveled and lived in Japan.

Many items in this exhibition have rarely been on display to the public before while others have never been on display at the museum. Items in this exhibition include paintings, screens, prints, ceramics, lacquer and metal wares, ivory carvings, arms and armor, cloisonné, dolls, masks, costumes and textiles. This exhibition features items which span from the 12th to 20th centuries, and many major styles of Japanese art representing rare and unique examples of many of the leading masters of this time.

Some of the treasures in Masterpieces of Japanese Art include:

  • Complete set of Japanese armor. Made from iron, doeskin and lacquer, the armor is in the style of the Edo period (1615-1868), created in the late 18th or early 19th century.

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Suit of Armor, Edo period (1615–1868), late 18th or early 19th century. Iron, doeskin, and lacquer. Museum Purchase, 1892.2783. Cincinnati Art Museum.

  • Model of an ox cart. Coated with black lacquer, this large-scale model is equipped with functional parts and decorated with custom-made bamboo curtains for its windows and doors.

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Model of an Ox Cart. Meiji period (1868–1912), 19th century. Lacquer. Gift of Mrs. Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto. 1911.1371Cincinnati Art Museum.

  • Presentation of a Prince, six-fold screen. Depicting a scene from the Tale of Genji. In ink, color and gold on paper, the screen is attributed to 16th century female artist Chiyo Mitsuhisa. Due to its rarity and value, the National Institute for Cultural Properties of Japan funded its restoration. It was shipped to Japan for expert conservation restoration in 2012.

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Chiyo Mitsuhisa (Attr., Active circa 1532–55) 千代光久 Presentation of a Prince, Momoyama period (1573–1615), Late 16th or early 17th century. Six-fold screen. Ink, color, and gold on paper. The Thoms Collection; Given by Mrs. Murat H. Davidson in Honor of her Grandfather, Joseph C. Thoms 1982.6. Cincinnati Art Museum.

  • Teapot with bamboo handle. A double-gourd-shaped teapot covered in a soft yellow glaze that darkens to green. This item is an example of Rookwood Pottery’s introduction into Japanese aesthetics via Kitaro Shirayamadani, who worked at Rookwood from 1887 until his death in 1948.
  • Miss Okinawa, Japanese Friendship Doll. Created as a symbol of friendship and goodwill between Japan and the United States, this is one of 58 Japanese dolls sent to the US in 1927. The 30-inch doll dressed in a silk kimono and some of her accessories will be on display.

Dr. Hou-mei Sung, Curator of Asian Art at the Cincinnati Art Museum, has dedicated years to exploring and inventorying the museum’s 3,000 piece collection of Japanese art. To complement the exhibition, she has created a 206-page catalogue which provides history and context for each item that will be on display.

We want the world to know that the Cincinnati Art Museum has an amazing collection of Japanese art. It’s a hidden treasure of beautiful, diverse and historically relevant artwork, right here in Cincinnati,” said Dr. Sung. “The artwork alone is worthy of appreciation, but the exploration of the past and connections with the area to Japan makes it even more interesting.”

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