Waseda University has an enormous collection of materials that tells the story of all the scholarly research done here over the years since the university’s foundation. The Yaichi Aizu Collection is one of the cultural assets unique to Waseda University along with various archaeological materials excavated since before the war, donated works of modern art, the Ainu artifacts of the Tosabayashi Collection, and others. Since the Aizu Museum opened in 1998, the total number of artifacts in its care has risen to around 18,000 as a result of donations from alumni such as the Shigenori Tomioka Collection, the Uchiyama Collection, the Hattori Collection, the Ono Collection and the Kosei Ando Collection. By having these permanently on display, we are aiming to be a museum that facilitates research and education both inside and outside Waseda and trying to create a space where people can come into contact with intellectual historical artifacts in the university whenever they want.
Building No.2 was erected as a library, and Sanae Takada, president of Waseda University at the time and a fellow of the Nihon Bijutsuin, commissioned Yokoyama and Shimomura to paint this large work. The university provided 3,000 yen for the cost of the paint. By way of reference, the tuition fee (in the liberal arts) at Waseda University in those days was 140 yen. The large paper sheet was an unrivalled blend of mainly mulberry with some hemp and gampi, made by Heizaburo Iwano of Fukui who gathered 30 or 40 men and women to spread the pulp and dry it. The paper alone merits being a museum artifact, and some of the actual paper made on that occasion is stored in the Gutenberg Museum and the Paper Museum. The cost of the papermaking equipment alone was reported to be 2,000 yen. When work began, the paper first underwent pretreatment with special large brushes, and immediately absorbed one large bucket of pretreatment solution. With several grams of gold dust easily costing more than 1,000 yen, and Yokoyama used up one stick of his treasured sumi ink, the money prepared by the university made no more than a dent in the actual cost. Work on the painting was shared so that Shimomura painted the sun symbolizing “light” and Yokoyama the clouds expressing “dark”. The implied meaning is that people can move from a world of darkness to a state of clarity through reading. When installed on the staircase of the main hall, the painting all but dominated the entire building and is said to have remind everyone present of the imposing image of the Marquess Okuma.
*Public viewing only during exhibitions.
This painting was exhibited in autumn 1927 along with the scroll painting Saiyuki (Journey to the West), which is housed at the MOA Museum of Art, at the revived 14th exhibition of the Japan Art Institute in the Tokyo Prefectural Art Museum (currently the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum), and donated by the artist to the library of Waseda University shortly afterwards in 1929. It is said to have taken two years to paint. Its theme is the Tensho embassy sent to Europe. According to art reviews at the time of its unveiling, the figure on horseback is the young head of the envoy Mancio Ito, nephew of Sorin Otomo. The painting depicts the day of the envoy’s official audience with the Pope. Maeda traveled to Europe from 1922 to 1923, visiting Rome first, followed by Florence, Siena, Assisi, Arezzo, Venice, Ravenna, and others, and it is likely that the various Renaissance statues he saw of people on horseback became his source of inspiration. The background should show the city of Rome, but it looks as though he has composed it from his combined memory of different Italian cities. A tapestry of this work (produced by Kawashima Textile) hangs on the first-floor wall of Waseda University’s administration building.
*Public viewing dates will be announced.