Mynah Birds, Unidentified Artist Japanese, Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper, Japan

Mynah Birds

Unidentified Artist Japanese
Momoyama (1573–1615)–Edo (1615–1868) period
early 17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper
Image (each screen): 61 x 142 1/8 in. (155 x 361 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation and Anonymous Gifts, 2013
Accession Number:
2013.21.1, .2
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 226
A myriad of mynah birds set against the gold and blue of a shoreline is frozen in a moment in time. This is one of few surviving examples of the theme of a flock of mynahs depicted in the screen format. The artist has created an engaging sense of pattern, while using detailed brushwork to imbue each bird with animated expression.

Though not native to Japan, within East Asian literary tradition mynah birds serve as emblems of honesty, independent thinking, and even resistance to unjust authority. Whether this work can be interpreted as political protest is impossible to know, but the unusual iconography, focusing on mynah birds to the exclusion of any other creature or even landscape elements, lends itself to such an interpretation. It also dates to the era when Japanese artists were reformulating continental modes of ink painting to create their own distinct styles.
Signature: unsigned
Soshiro Yabumoto Co., Ltd. Tokyo, late 1970s–early 1980s] [sold February 1986, Leighton Longhi, New York]; Betty Borman, Beverly Hills, CA, May 1986–;; [ Leighton R. Longhi Inc. , New York, February–May 28, 1986; sold to Borman]; Betty Borman , Beverly Hills, California (1986–2013; sold in 2013, through Leighton R. Longhi Inc., New York , to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Birds in the Art of Japan," February 2, 2013–July 28, 2013.