Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months with Chinese Calligraphy

Kano School

Not on view

Although traditionally it was common to paint entire scenes directly onto folding screens, alternatively, an allover design could be painted on the panels, to which small fans or albums of painting or calligraphy would then be attached. This set of screens is unusual in that the background design was painted on the screen with the knowledge that large paintings would be placed on top; that is, the screens were custom-made to accommodate these skillful bird-and-flower paintings, no doubt created by a Kano atelier artist of the late sixteenth century. Each panel of this pair of screens contains both a painted scene in a fan-shaped cartouche and a sheet of calligraphy that has been cut in half to replicate the squarish proportions of Japanese shikishi (square poem cards). The twelve scenes of birds and flowers present a progression of the characteristic flora and fauna of the four seasons. The sheets of poetry contain verses on the theme of plums in winter, which were composed and inscribed by six Chinese scholars, including Huang Yuanxu, who dated his piece to autumn 1553.

Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months with Chinese Calligraphy, Kano School, Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink and color and gold leaf on paper, Japan

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Right screen