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Bamboo in the Four Seasons

Attributed to Tosa Mitsunobu (1434–1525)

Period:
Muromachi period (1392–1573)
Date:
16th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink and color on gilt paper
Dimensions:
Image: 61 13/16 x 9 ft. 9 3/4 in. (157 x 360 cm)
Classification:
Screens
Credit Line:
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
Accession Number:
1975.268.44, .45
  • Description

    This pair of six-panel screens combines the traditional Chinese subject of bamboo with indigenous interest in the four seasons. The seasonal sequence begins with spring, on the right, where violets and shepherd's purse are clustered at the base of a bamboo grove. Early summer is represented in the last two panels of the right screen and first two panels of the left with the stout, conical forms of new bamboo shoots. Slender bamboo stalks entwined with red-tinged ivy suggest autumn. A stand of bamboo heavily weighted with snow brings the composition to a wintry close. The rhythmic cadences of the bamboo, arranged with reference to a ground plane, typify the decorative approach to screen composition practiced by artists of the Tosa school.

    An inscription on the left screen by Tosa Mitsuoki (1617–1691) attributes the work to Tosa Mitsunobu, who is considered the school's founder. The lack of comparable screens makes it difficult to verify the attribution, but miniature screens included in the interior scenes of Mitsunobu's narrative handscrolls (emaki) almost always depict single subjects, such as pines, autumn grasses, and bamboo.

  • See also
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    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
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