Empress Jitō (持統天皇) Jitō-tennō (Japanese, 645-703)

Pictured here in the robes and headdress of an emperor, Empress Jitō reigned as empress regnant in the Heian court from 686 to 697, when she abdicated the throne, but still retained power in court until her death. Like many of the Heian nobility, Jitō was an accomplished writer of tanka or waka poetry, which were used to send missives among the ruling classes and to show off knowledge of historical poetry and allusions to nature. This portrait appears in Katsukawa Shunsho’s book Eastern Brocade of One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets (Nishiki hyakunin isshu azuma-ori) 錦百人一首あつま織. While many of the portraits within its pages include a poem by the subject on the same page, the Empress’s portrait and poem were allocated their own pages—her image on the left-hand side and the poem on the right. In some versions of this print, there is also a poem in the cloud-like space above her likeness.