Icons in Japan painted by Rin Yamashita : anonymity and materiality

Title: Icons in Japan painted by Rin Yamashita : anonymity and materiality
Variant title:
  • Japonské ikony Rin Yamashity: anonymita a materiálnost
Source document: Convivium. 2014, vol. 1, iss. 2, pp. 58-73
  • ISSN
    2336-3452 (print)
    2336-808X (online)
Type: Article
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Rin Yamashita (1857–1939), Japan's sole icon painter, spent the years 1881–1882 in St. Petersburg. Research into the three hundred Yamashita icons that remain intact has revealed all of them to be copies of Russian originals. This is attributable to the Byzantine idea of anonymous icons, expressed in the second Nicean Council of 787. At a time before Kondakov and Wölfflin, who saw art as an expression of an era, Yamashita borrowed two distinct styles for her icons, one academic, and the other an antiquarian, indigenous, primitive style with an affinity with the icons in Palekh and the same figure from the 1911 lithograph icon by I. E. Fesenko. According to the Nicean Council, the icon was a dead matter par excellence. This relative attitude toward matter finds parallels in the work of Kierkegaard. In modern Japan, where icons by Yamashita co-exist with portraits of emperors, viewers are expected suspend the idea of living matter and hold the idea of representation as Kierkegaard says that Christianity introduced it into the world.