The Court Visit of the Four Sages of Mount Shang and Su Shi's Visit to the Wind and Water Cave

In the Style of Kano Mitsunobu (Japanese, 1565–1608)

Momoyama period (1573–1615)
late 16th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on gilt paper
Image (each screen): 68 3/4 in. x 12 ft. 4 7/8 in. (174.6 x 378.1 cm)
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:
1975.268.46, .47
  • Description

    The subject of the screen on the right is the emperor Hui-di (r. 194–188 B.C.) of the Han dynasty, while he was still a crown prince. His rightful ascendance to the throne, which was threatened by his father's desire to install a son from a favored concubine, was assured by the unprecedented appearance of four hermit sages who had previously refused to attend court. Their loyalty so impressed the emperor that he withdrew his illegitimate proposal.

    The scene on the left screen illustrates a poem by the renowned scholar and statesman Su Shi (Su Dongpo, 1037–1101). In 1073, as Su was traveling from Hangzhou to Xincheng, he stopped at the Wind and Water Cave to meet the young poet Li Bi. After they viewed plum blossoms and composed poetry together, Su inscribed poems on the walls of the cave. In the painting, the older man crosses a
    footbridge accompanied by a servant; Li awaits his arrival seated in a pavilion high above a ravine.

    The slender trees and the crisp but rather delicate outlines of rocks are reminiscent of the works by Kano Mitsunobu, son and pupil of the Momoyama-period genius Eitoku (1543–1590).