A Screen for the New Year: Pines and Plum Blossoms
January 28 - May 3, 2015
Above: Kano̅ School, Edo period (1615-1868), early to mid-17th century; Six-panel folding screen; mineral pigments, ink, and gold leaf on paper; Stoddard Acquisition Fund, 2012.97
This rare early to mid-17th century screen is superbly representative of the sophisticated elegance, energy and sumptuousness that appealed to Japanese noblemen and feudal lords. Created to be displayed in a dimly lit room in a castle at New Year's, the screen features two enduring New Year's symbols set against a gold foil background: dark, hardy evergreen pines that are emblematic of long life, dignity and power, and the first flowers of the lunar calendar year, delicate white plum blossoms symbolic of new life.
During the 15th and early 16th centuries, Kano̅Ì„ school artists were often commissioned by Zen abbots and feudal warlords to produce monochrome ink paintings of, for example, Chinese landscapes with scholars or tiger and dragon motifs. However, during the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Kano̅ Eitoku (1543-1590) and his sons and students dramatized and expanded the Kano̅Ì„ school repertoire and painting-style. During the peaceful Edo period (1615-1868), when wealthy merchants also began to commission screens, Kano̅Ì„ school artists freely merged ink brushwork with the bright colors, patterning and seasonal references associated with native Japanese tastes. In this screen, linear vertical and diagonal branches and soft pine boughs are contrasted with an undulating branch of white plum blossoms that dramatically winds across the screen surface, partly traced through the added depiction of lichen.