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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Poem Scroll with Deer

Photo: Seiji Shirono, National Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo

Poem Scroll with Deer


Tawaraya Sotatsu

Japanese, 1576 - 1643

Hon'ami Koetsu

Japanese, 1558 - 1637

This masterpiece is a collaboration between the accomplished painter Sotatsu and calligrapher Koetsu. Sotatsu’s deer frolic along in a beautifully choreographed dance with  poems from the classic anthology Shin Kokinshu, brushed by Koetsu in the fluid “scattered writing” calligraphy style.

The Seattle Art Museum is fortunate to have the largest contiguous section of the Deer Scroll, measuring over thirty feet and accounting for more than one-third of the complete work. A collaborative effort among current owners of the scroll has made it available as an interactive virtual installation, in its entirety and with complete translations of the poems.
Handscroll; ink, gold and silver on paper
13 7/16 × 366 3/16 in. (34.1 × 930.1 cm)
Overall: 13 1/2 x 410 3/16 in. (34.3 x 1041.9 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Donald E. Frederick
Photo: Seiji Shirono, National Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo
Now on view at the Asian Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryKansas City, Missouri, Nelson-Atkins Gallery of Art, and St. Louis, Missouri, City Art Museum, "Art of Japan in Edo Period", March 16, - April 21, 1958. (3/16- 4/21/1958)

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Japanese Art in the Seattle Art Museum", August 26 - November 6, 1960 (8/26-11/6/1960)

Cleveland, Ohio, Cleveland Museum of Art, "Japanese Decorative Style", August 30 - October 15, 1961. (8/30-10/15/1961)

Asia Society, Asia House Gallery, "Masterpieces of Asian Art in American Collections II", 1970. (1970 - 1970)

New York, New York, Japan House Gallery, "Rimpa Exhibition", 1971. September - December? 1971

Tokyo, Japan, Tokyo National Museum, "Rimpa School Exhibition", 1972. (1972 - 1972)

Los Angeles, California, Frederick S. Wight Art Gallery, University of California, The UCLA Art Council Annual Exhibition, "Birds, Beasts, Blossoms and Bugs: The Nature of Japanese Art", March 30 - May 23, 1976. (03/30/1976 - 05/23/1976)

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "A Thousand Cranes: Treasures of Japanese Art", February 5 - July 12, 1987. (02/05/1987 - 07/12/1987)

New Haven, Connecticut, Yale University Art Gallery, "Word in Flower: The Visualization of Classical Literature in 17th Century Japan", 9/22 - 11/12/89. (09/22/1989 - 11/12/1989)

Osaka, Japan, Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Arts, "The Calligraphy of Koetsu-Great Works of the Keicho, Genna, and Kanei Eras", May 17 - June 24, 1990. (04/21/1990 - 06/25/1990)

Nagoya, Japan, Nagoya City Museum, Beauty of Rimpa", April 23 - May 24, 1994 (04/23/1994 - 05/22/1994)

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Collection of the Seattle Art Museum", November 1, 1998 - March 1, 1999

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Flights of Fancy: Natural and Supernatural Images In Japanese Art", December 9, 1998 - August 1, 1999

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Museum of Art, "Hon'ami Koetsu, Japanese Renaissance Master", August 6, 2000 - October 29, 2000

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "A Thousand Years of Beauty: Japanese Art in Seattle", July 16, 2001 - November 17, 2002

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Five Masterpieces of Asian Art: The Story of their Conservation", May 5, 2007 - September 9, 2007

Tokyo, Japan, Suntory Museum of Art, "Luminous Jewels: Masterpieces of Asian Art From the Seattle Art Museum", July 25 - September 6, 2009; Tour Schedule: Kobe City Museum, September 19 - December 6, 2009; Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, December 23, 2009 - February 28, 2010; MOA Museum of Art, March 13 - May 9, 2010; Fukuoka Art Museum, May 23 - July 19, 2010

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, "Luminous: The Art of Asia", October 13, 2011 - January 8, 2012

Washington, DC, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Sotatsu, Oct. 24, 2015 - Jan. 31, 2016. Text by Yukio Lippit and James T. Ulak. Cat. no. 23, reproduced pp. 224-225.
Published References"Handbook, Seattle Art Museum: Selected Works from the Permanent Collections." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1951, p. 98 (b&w)

Lee, Sherman E. "Sotatsu and the Tale of Ise," in The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Vol. 40 No.4, Apr. 1953, p.62-64.

Fuller, Richard E. "Japanese Art in the Seattle Art Museum: An Historical Sketch." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1960 ("Presented in commemoration of the Hundredth Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and the United States of America"), no. 140a and b

Li, Chu-tsing. "The Oberlin Orchid and the Problem of P'u-ming," in Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America, Vol. 16 (1962), pp. 49-76, p. 69, 70; p. 70, fig. 20

Thomas, Edward B. "Oriental Art in the Seattle Art Museum," in Art in America, no. 1, 1965, illus. p. 51

Waterhouse, D. B. "Tawaraya Sotatsu and The Deer Scroll," Center for Asian Arts, University of Washington (Jan 1966), p. 1-76.

Trubner, Henry. "Asian Art in the Seattle Art Museum: Fifty Years of Collecting." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1983, pp. 4-5, illus. b&w

"Selected Works." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1991, pp. 192-193

Fuller, Richard E. "A Gift to the City." Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum, 1993, p. 27

"The Arts of Honami Koetsu: Japanese Renaissance Master." Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2000. pp. 191-193

"Seattle Art Museum's treasured 'Deer Scroll' restored," in the Asian Reporter, 25 January 2005. Portland, OR.

"1001 Paintings You Must See Before You Die." London: Quintet Publishing Limited, 2006, p. 210

"Seattle Art Museum: Bridging Cultures." London: Scala Publishers Ltd. for the Seattle Art Museum, 2007, pp. 68-69

Deer Scroll. Online interactive publication, 2007,

Clysdale, Heather Colburn, The International Chinese Snuff Bottle Society, "Journal", Autumn 2008, pg. 12

Kawai, Masatomo, Yasuhiro Nishioka, Yukiko Sirahara, editors, "Luminous Jewels: Masterpieces of Asian Art From the Seattle Art Museum", 2009, The Yomiuri Shimbun, catalogue number 46

Tamamushi, Satoko, Tawaraya Sotatsu and the Tradition of Gold and Silver Paintings in Japanese Art, University of Tokyo Press, 2012, pg. 20

Cartier, Paris Nouvelle Vague New Collection catalogue, No 142, October 2013, pg. 85-86

Neave, Dorinda; Lara Blanchard, and Marika Sardar, "Asian Art" My Search Lab books, 2015, p. 359. illus 15-6

Tamamushi, Satoko. Koetsu. Tokyo, 2015; p.42, reproduced

Tamamushi, Satoko. The Artist in Edo. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018; p. 57, reproduced fig. 9.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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