Night Attack on Sanjo Palace vs. Bayeux Tapestry
The Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace is a Japanese handscroll from the
Kamakura Period. At this time, the power of emperors are weakened due to two powerful
clans fighting for supremacy. The scroll depicts a great battle occurring between these
two warring military clans, the Minamoto and the Taira, along with the kidnapping of the
retired emperor, the burning of the palace itself, and the massacre of the palace’s
The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidery and was sewn with wool onto linen. It
depicts the events that led to William the Conqueror and the Norman’s conquest of
England culminating in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.
One obvious similarity between the Night Attack and the Bayeux Tapestry is the
fact that both are possibly biased in the recorder’s favor. Note that the Bayeux Tapestry
was made from a group of women who didn’t partake in the battle, but were given oral
accounts of it, which may have been altered because it was from the victor’s perspective.
Similarly, the Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace shows evidence of bias as well.
According to other records, this rebel military takeover was actually unsuccessful,
meaning they didn’t win this particular battle. But they did win the overall war, so they
made this scroll to make it seem as though they did win. Another similarity is the aspect
of loyalties and families. As stated previously, the Night Attack on Sanjo Palace included
the conflict between the Minamoto family and the Taira family. The Bayeux Tapestry
also shows this type of situation, the conflict being between William, the Duke of
Normandy, and Harold, the Earl of Wessex. A third similarity could be that both artworks
are records of a battle fought over power. The Bayeux Tapestry was a record of William
the Conqueror fighting and eventually killing Harold for the throne of England, and the
Attack on Sanjo Palace was a record of a military takeover attempt during a time when
two powerful military clans were competing for supremacy.
Although the Bayeux Tapestry and the Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace are very
similar in some ways, they are also very different from each other in other ways. One of
these ways, for example, is the perspective used in each story. When we look at the Night
Attack on Sanjo Palace, notice that we’re sort of floating above it, as if we’re in a drone
or up in a tree, looking down at the ensuing chaos as a whole. It’s like the artists are
trying to get across this chaos and cacophony of what’s going on not only in the warriors
minds, but even in a witness’s mind. They want you to feel what it’s like to be there and
see it firsthand. Whereas in the Bayeux Tapestry, we’re on ground level, we’re in the
midst of the action, and we’re only focused on the most important aspects of the battle
such as the death of King Edward in the beginning and the death of Harold in the end.
Another difference between the Tapestry and the Night Attack is what they used to make
each artwork. For the Bayeux Tapestry, women sewed wool into linen, which makes it an
embroidery and not an actual tapestry. In contrast, the Night Attack on the Sanjo Palace
is a handscroll, meaning it was drawn using ink and color on paper.