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Birds and Flowers

Attributed to Kano Shôei

Asian Art

This pair of screens depicts no fewer than fifteen species of birds and at least twenty different plant types, all associated with summer and early fall. The genre of bird-and-flower painting was established in China, where many plants and animals have served as symbols for noble virtues. Although that symbolism was employed by Japanese artists as well, recent scholarship has suggested that these screens communicate a more specifically Buddhist message: the abundant life forms and otherworldly gold sky refer to Paradise as described by the Pure Land school of Buddhism. Indeed, screens such as these were occasionally displayed in Japanese Buddhist temples.

The artist, Kano Shōei, belonged to the Kano school of painters, an artistic group composed of Kano male relatives as well as talented students who were granted the family name. The Kano school provided paintings for temples and palaces in Japan’s capital cities for generations. The artists prided themselves on their knowledge of Chinese painting styles, which they adapted for Japanese tastes.
MEDIUM Ink, color, gold leaf and gold fleck on paper
  • Place Made: Japan
  • DATES late 16th century
    PERIOD Muromachi Period
    DIMENSIONS Overall (unfolded): 68 3/4 × 147 11/16 in. (174.6 × 375.2 cm) image (outer panel): 62 5/16 x 21 5/8 in. (158.3 x 54.9 cm) image (Inner panel): 62 3/8 x 24 3/8 in. (158.4 x 61.9 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS Jar-shaped seal of Shoei on the lower right corner, on the gold leaf.
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John Fleming
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Birds and Flowers. Pair of 6-panel screens; ink, color, gold leaf, and gold fleck on paper. This is the right-hand screen of the pair. The screens represent a variety of plants and animals associated with the late spring, summer, and early autumn in Japan. Prof. Matthew McKelway notes that most of the species and varieties are native to Japan, with some of the birds passing through Japan in the summer months. On this screen, from right to left: Panel 1: Pine tree, woodpecker, roses, and leopard flowers (hiogi) Panel 2: Pine tree, with a pair of varied tits (yamagara) in its branches, a female golden pheasant below with bamboo grass (kumazasa) and Asiatic dayflowers (tsuyukusa or tsukikusa), and a blue-and-white fly catcher (oruri) flying above. Panel 3: Male golden pheasant, a pair of red-whiskered bulbuls (koraun) above, spider brake (inomotoso) below and Asiatic dayflowers (tsuyukusa or tsukikusa) behind the pheasant. Panel 4: three bushwarblers (uguisu) in flight, with sweetfish (ayu) swimming below, with Japanese gentian (rindo) above. Panel 5: a diving duck above with a female mandarin duck below, among pink lotus flowers and reeds (ashi). Panel 6: the male mandarin duck among more lotuses and reeds, with an unidentified bird perched above. Blue and gold brocade borders, black lacquer wood frame with bronze fittings, stencil printing paper back.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CAPTION Attributed to Kano Shôei (Japanese, 1519–1592). Birds and Flowers, late 16th century. Ink, color, gold leaf and gold fleck on paper, Overall (unfolded): 68 3/4 × 147 11/16 in. (174.6 × 375.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John Fleming, 83.183.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 83.183.2_PS11.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 83.183.2_PS11.jpg., 2019
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    Attributed to Kano Shôei (Japanese, 1519–1592). <em>Birds and Flowers</em>, late 16th century. Ink, color, gold leaf and gold fleck on paper, Overall (unfolded): 68 3/4 × 147 11/16 in. (174.6 × 375.2 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John Fleming, 83.183.2. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: , 83.183.2_PS11.jpg)