17th Century Japanese Crane Screen Pair




Anonymous, Kano School.

Edo period, second half of the 17th century.

Pair of six-panel screens. Ink, pigment gofun and gold leaf on paper.


Each: H. 171 cm x W. 376 cm (67’’ x 148’’)

Price: USD 85,000

This bold and innovative composition presents a grouping of red-crowned and white-naped cranes extending across a pair of six-panel Japanese screens. The 15 cranes in this work, grouped in rhythmic arrangements, are standing along a body of water, which is only partially revealed through golden clouds. Rock formations at either end of the monumental work shelter flowering peonies and camellias, representing the seasons of summer and winter. The bold, clear and elegant forms of the cranes, tinged with humor, are set off to full effect against the large unpainted areas of the gold-leaf screens. Read from right to left there is a sense of narrative as the intermingling forms of the cranes, each one an individual and full of life, lead us through the seasons. It is the work of an anonymous painter, presumably of the Kano school, from the second half of the 17th century. 

This dramatic work, spanning over 24 feet, is really an emblem of good fortune rather than a depiction of the natural world. From ancient times, cranes in Japan were said to live for a thousand years, serving as potent symbols of youthfulness and long life in both literature and art. The red-crowned crane, in particular, is an auspicious symbol of the New Year, of peace, harmony, prosperity, and fidelity.