Exhibitions/ Art Object

Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months

Sakai Hōitsu (Japanese, 1761–1828)
Edo period (1615–1868)
ca. 1817–28
Set of twelve hanging scrolls; ink, color, and gold paint on silk
Image (each): 52 1/4 × 17 9/16 in. (132.7 × 44.6 cm)
Overall with mounting: 86 1/4 × 23 1/8 in. (219 × 58.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Lent by Feinberg Collection
Not on view
Birds and flowers of the various seasons were favorite subjects for early Rinpa painters. Sets of twelve paintings on this theme were often based upon the collection of twelve poems Waka on Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months (Teika-ei jūnikagetsu kachō waka) composed by the court poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162–1241). Hōitsu’s twelve paintings, however, do not adhere to such a classical model, but offer instead more freely conceived seasonal combinations of flowering trees, plants, birds, and insects. This set is unusual in that each painting includes a living animal, bird, or insect in addition to its seasonal plants. Though Hōitsu repeatedly painted the same plants for each month, his choice of a chinaberry (Japanese: sendan) with round green fruits for the tenth-month painting is unique to this set.

Five other complete sets of Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months by Hōitsu are known. The set displayed here was formerly owned by Kaiyūji Temple in Maebashi, once patronized by the Sakai family to which the artist belonged.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection," February 1, 2014–September 7, 2014.