Regular Feature

Greetings from the Outskirts of Kyoto vol.26

INOUE Shōichi (Director-General)
November 29, 2022

I recently wrote an essay called Bibō no rekishi to bijutsu no rekishi (The History of Art and History of Beauty). My purpose was to investigate whether one may use works of art to trace historical changes in what constitutes a beautiful face.

My sources include a number of classical works of art. Recently it has become more difficult to get permission to use such works. We are all now under the strictest obligation to seek the approval of archives and photographers. I do not own a computer, and my attempts to get permission never go to plan.

In the end, I sketched my own copies of these works of art with a pencil. My essay is accompanied by drawings in my own hand. I decided that this method would obviate the need to acquire permissions.


Detail from the statue of Ashura at Kōfukuji temple, mid.8th century (Sketch by Inoue Shōichi)

Cheekily, though, I was also keen to display my artistic skills. When I was young, I studied design, and I wanted to show off here too.

Unfortunately, when I set my heart on becoming a scholar, I abandoned design. This was, therefore, my first attempt in forty years, and has given me plenty of food for thought. Clearly, my artistic skills have waned. However, I did make the sketches, so I enclose a couple here. Take a look for yourself!


Detail from Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola, c. 1514-1516 (Sketch by Inoue Shōichi)