This article advocates for a reevaluation of the origins of “collage” in global modernity. It does so by scrutinizing the materiality, historicization, and emergence of a medieval Japanese manuscript known as the Anthology of the Thirty-Six Poets. Rediscovered in 1896, well into Japan's modern era, the voluminous manuscript is replete with stunning examples of papers pasted together in the year 1112—precisely eight centuries before the celebrated Cubist innovations of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. The stakes of the comparison are raised, however, by the fact that twentieth-century art historians and critics repeatedly cast the Anthology as the ultimate exemplar of an autochthonous, purely Japanese aesthetic. For some, the medieval Anthology was evidence of a proleptic modernity that challenged the purported innovativeness of North Atlantic modern art. Here I trace the trajectory and test the cogency of this provocative parallel.

You do not currently have access to this content.