Attributed to Kano Sansetsu (Japanese, ca. 1589–1651)
Four sliding door panels (fusuma); ink, color, gold leaf on paper
H. 68 3/4 in. (174.6 cm)
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 (1975.268.48a-d)
The massive black trunk of an ancient plum tree with bending, twisting branches spans nearly sixteen feet across four gold-leafed sliding panels. The downward thrust of its principal branch is echoed by the parallel reverse movement of two young shoots. Supported on both sides by vertical and horizontal expanses of rock, the old reptilian tree sprouts blossoms, which convey the atmosphere of a cold, early spring and symbolize birth and renewal. This remarkable painting bears no signature or seal, but the exaggerated bends of the tree and the cubelike crispness of the geometric rocks are idiosyncrasies associated with the signed works of Kano Sansetsu. Sansetsu was a pupil and son-in-law of Kano Sanraku (15591635).
The panels originally formed one wall of a room in the Tenshoin, a subtemple of Myoshinji. On the reverse of these panels was a composition depicting the Chinese theme of Eight Daoist Immortals, which formed a wall in the adjacent room. This composition is now in the Minneapolis Institute of Art.