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Portrait of Hosokawa Sumimoto, 1507
By Kano Motonobu (1476–1559); inscription
by Keijo Shurin (1444–1518)
Japan, Muromachi period (1392–1573)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk
Eisei-Bunko Museum, 466
© Eisei Bunko, Japan.

The period from the mid–1400s through the 1500s was a turbulent, bloody, and brutal time. Consumed by ambition, suspicion, or jealousy, many members of warrior families fought even with their own family members during this period. Hosokawa Sumimoto (1489–1520) exemplifies a warrior who experienced continual intrigue and conflict throughout his short life.

Sumimoto was adopted into the Hosokawa family. His adoptive father had already adopted another son from a powerful family. The sons quarreled over succession to the Hosokawa line, and their adoptive father was murdered by a supporter of Sumimoto’s brother. Sumimoto fled to another province, where he raised troops and then returned to defeat his rival and assume the role of head of the Hosokawa—but only briefly: he was unseated the following year. Despite several subsequent attempts to regain power he died, disappointed, in exile.

In this equestrian portrait, the nineteen-year-old Sumimoto wears armor of the kind exemplified by cat. no. 22, along with a helmet with a hornlike crest. His sword mounting is slung at his left side. He holds a long-handled blade and a whip in his right hand, and the reins in his left hand. A short sword is tucked into his belt.

Keijo Shurin, abbot of Nanzenji temple in Kyoto, added an inscription above the figure, praising Sumimoto as a balanced man of military and civil arts.

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