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Tani Bunchō, Tiger Family and Magpies, Edo period, 1807, hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Charlotte Wayne and Richard Wayne in memory of Lenore Wayne. Photo © Museum Associates /LACMA

The Roles and Representations of Animals in Japanese Art and Culture, Part 6—Art, Science, and the Representation of Nature

Federico Marcon, associate professor of East Asian studies and history and director of graduate studies, Princeton University

Artworks representing animals—real or imaginary, religious or secular—span the full breadth and splendor of Japanese artistic production. As the first exhibition devoted to the subject, The Life of Animals in Japanese Art covers 17 centuries (from the fifth century to the present day) and a wide variety of media. At the symposium held on June 7, 2019, in conjunction with the exhibition, Federico Marcon discussed the fascination with animals that was characteristic of early modern Japan. Animals were the main attractions of street shows, theatrical performances, and illustrated fictions and were collected as pets and specimens. According to Marcon, scholars engaged in the study of birds, insects, fish, and beasts, and illustrations played a fundamental role in documenting research, conveying information, and aiding taxonomical precision.