Early 20th Century Japanese Framed Painting | White Peacocks



Kasahara Seiken

White Peacocks

circa 1916

Japanese framed painting. Ink, color and gofun on silk.


H. 171.5 cm x W. 76 cm (67.5” x 30”)

Price: USD 13,500

A Taisho period Japanese nihonga painting depicting a pair of white peacocks resting on an oak tree. Dazzling in appearance, their feathers glisten in the sunlight. The large leaves of the oak are slowly turning color as winter approaches. The scene appears to be bathed in a light courtesy of the shimmering golden background. The entire reverse side of the silk has been applied with gold leaf in a technique known as uruhaku. Much favored during the early decades of the 20th century, this elegant technique was a consequence of the growing use of silk, rather than paper, as a support for large scale paintings. Through painting on silk, the artists were able to achieve the immaculate brushwork and coloring that they aspired too, which in the past was more commonly limited to small scale hanging scrolls.

Peacocks in traditional Japanese art have religious and auspicious symbolism. They are symbols of wisdom and said to have the power to steer the faithful away from evil. In Buddhist iconography, they are considered to be guardians from disaster and hardship. The traditional symbolism was transferred to modern images of the peacock as a symbol of success and general prosperity.

This large painting is by an artist named Kasahara Seiken. Today little is known about the artist. Seiken must have achieved some level of importance as one of his paintings was exhibited at the 1916 Teiten exhibition; Japan’s most prestigious art exhibition. It was title ‘White Peacock’ and compositionally is very similar to the work being offered here. It would be fair to assume that the two works were painted at a similar time in the artist’s career.

The silk painting is mounted on lightweight, archival board, the frame of roiro mirror-polished, rich burgundy lacquer. Conservation, mounting and framing was carried out in Kyoto utilizing traditional techniques and exceptional craftsmen.