Exhibitions/ Art Object

Flowers and Birds of the Four Seasons

Kano Sanboku (Japanese, active late 17th–early 18th century)
Edo period (1615–1868)
late 17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper
Image: 59 in. x 12 ft. 1/2 in. (149.9 x 367 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1999
Accession Number:
1999.204.1, .2
Not on view
On the right-hand screen are white plum blossoms, harbingers of spring, with other small spring flowers growing nearby; farther to the left, the irises of summer are in bloom. Nightingales and cuckoos celebrate both seasons. The left screen depicts autumn and winter, represented by hibiscus and snow-dotted bamboo; a kingfisher and pheasants herald these seasons. Each screen bears two seals of the artist, Kano Sanboku, which read "Kei ga" and "Fukyūshi." Little is known about Sanboku except that he was a student of Kano Sanraku's (1559–1635) and Sansetsu's (1590–1651). These two great masters led the Kano school in Kyoto, which came to be known as Kyō Kano (Kyoto Kano) to distinguish it from the Kano school that had been active in Edo (modern-day Tokyo) since the early seventeenth century. Sanboku's works are extremely rare; only a few screens and two handscrolls have been attributed to him so far.

These hushed scenes depicting the perseverance of life during the winter and its renewal in spring strongly recall the art of Sansetsu. Sanboku's rendition of this traditional subject is subdued, almost devoid of color and lacking in the exuberance that appealed to the taste of the warrior clients of his time. Most of his other known paintings have been found at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in the Nara area, not far from Kyoto.
Signature: Two seals in red, reading "Fukyū-ga" (Painted by Fukyū), and "Fukyūshi" (Man named Fukyū) are impressed on each screen.
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