This panel looks at visual representations of figures that have become prominent icons in historical narratives. The three papers explore the political and social contexts, which shaped the visual narratives, and the diverse material manifestations and personas the figures took on as a result.
Visual representations of historical figures have played crucial roles in the formation of cultural memory in Japan. The glorification of heroes became effective tools to celebrate the past, legitimize authority, and instigate social values. Often overlooked in the study of such representations, however, is the impact of the materiality of the media employed. Whether they be paintings, books, prints, sculptures, or banknotes: the material nature and the media are determining factors of the audience, method and conventions of presentation, and the scope and space of the artefact's consumption. Each of the three papers featured in this panel focuses on one specific figure or several figures that have become prominent icons in historical narratives of later periods and cover a vast range of media in which they were represented. Melanie Trede scrutinizes the seventh-century Fujiwara no Kamatari, loyal supporter of the emperor and founder of the Fujiwara house, and his changing materialization, focusing specifically on Edo-period depictions of his persona in paintings and prints and his later depiction on banknotes. Haruko Wakabayashi looks at the tenth-century warrior Minamoto no Yorimitsu (a.k.a. Raikō), famed for his many quests against monsters and demons, with a focus on his portrayal in the Kano school scrolls from the Edo period and its legacies in illustrated books and festival floats. Finally, Misato Ido explores depictions of Prince Moriyoshi (Emperor Godaigo's son) and the famed loyalist warrior Kusunoki Masashige in history paintings, sculptures and textbooks of the late nineteenth century. The panel aims to explore the political and social contexts in which the visual narratives were formed and consumed, and the significance of diverse material manifestations and personas through which these narratives were told.