Rabbits and Horsetail Reeds | 19th century Japanese folding screen



Unknown artist

Rabbits and Horsetail Reeds

Painted in the Year of the Fire Dog, 1826 or 1886. 19th century.

Two-fold tea-ceremony screen. Ink, colour, gofun and silver leaf on paper.

Signed: 年麻 Nenma


177 cm x 61 cm  (70” x 24”)

Price: USD 14500

The scene depicted here is set under moonlight, with two hares hidden amongst Japanese horsetail reeds. In Japan horsetails have long been associated with the rabbit or hare, which is said to use this silica-rich plant to polish the disc of the moon. It is a furosaki screen, made for use during the tea-ceremony, and it would have been used in ceremonies to celebrate the Mid-Autumn-Moon. In Japan the full moon and the hare have become associated with autumn as this is when the moon is deemed to shine brightest. Hares or rabbits and the moon are often linked together in East Asian folklore. Japanese legends describe the shadows on the surface of the moon as hares pounding sticky rice cakes while an ancient Chinese-Taoist tale tells of a hare that resides in the moon and pounds magic herbs in order to make an elixir of longevity.

With this bold compositional design and the distillation of patterns and motifs, the artist has clearly been inspired by paintings of the Japanese Rimpa school. In particular, the work seeks to emulate the innovative artistic styles of the 17th century Rimpa pioneers, rather than the delicate depictions of the later Edo-Rinpa school. The forms of the rabbits can be traced back to the sliding doors of Yogen-in temple painted by Tawaraya Sotatsu, and further to fan paintings by Honami Koetsu.