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Earlier we looked at paper decorated with gold and silver leaf. Another way to use gold and silver to decorate books was to paint motifs on the page using gold and silver paints known traditionally as kindei (gold mud) and gindei (silver mud). In this example, especially at the top and bottom parts of the page, you see these drawings of clouds and mist made of fine gold sand, and then these exquisite maple leaves drawn with gold paint it is an extremely finely decorated example. Because they are under the written text, they are called shitae (“under-pictures”). Shitae can come in any color not just gold.
The earliest examples are the elegant books of the Heian period, but like decorative techniques, there was a revival in the 17th century, during the Edo period, when Heian styles were widely imitated. Here is an example in scroll format, here it’s an accordion book (orihon), here you see this picture of a flowing stream with grass and leaves painted with gold and silver color. The same technique was also used on book covers as in this example. Though these are not called shitae, you see these fine drawings using gold and silver paint, this technique of adding motifs to the cover using gold and silver paint was also used with a peak of popularity in the 17th century.
This one here is a poetry collection, but the picture on the cover is a rendition of a scene in the Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari, early 11th c.). The level of decoration is stunning. One important thing to keep in mind, you see here the picture of a horse generally speaking, there is no connection between the under paintings and the content of the written text. However, there is in some cases. Here the word “white horse” appears in the text, and here is the image of a horse this was originally part of a scroll and was cut off so in this case there is a correlation between the text and the motif.
It may appear strange but if you look at the painting closely, you will see that care was taken to avoid going over the text. So this picture is not a real shitae but was added to the book after the text was inscribed. It’s important to pay attention to these differences. Shitae are another unique feature of traditional Japanese books.







book 図1 白駒の文字と下絵


books on the table

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古書から読み解く日本の文化: 和本を彩る和紙の世界

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