17th Century Japanese Screen. White Herons with Maples. Kyoto Kano School.



White Herons with Maples

Attributed to Kano Sanraku & Kano Sansetsu

Edo period, 1st half of the 17th century.

Two-fold screen. Ink, pigment, gofun and gold leaf on paper.


H. 170 cm x W. 189.5 cm (67’’ x 74.5’’)

Price: USD 38,000

Elegant herons are most commonly portrayed in Japanese art associated with the cold of winter. Depicted here amongst maples, cypress and yew pines they convey the atmosphere of an autumn day. This early Japanese screen takes the forceful quality of Momoyama period painting and combines it with a more tranquil depiction of nature typical of the early Edo period. The seasonal motifs and decorative coloring of the native Yamato-e school combined with the gold leaf create a dazzling pictorial space. The tree trunks and outlines of the leaves are painted in the modulated outlines of the Kano school. Details of the heron’s plumage are finely rendered in white pigment; the eyes, beak, legs, and feet of the bird are also delicately detailed. The central tree remains unidentified and can only be found in a single work by Kano Sanraku (1559-1635) ((image below**)). It similarly features white herons combined with yew pine, a hint of cypress and this same, unidentified tree. Sanraku continued to uphold the dramatic style of his mentor, Kano Eitoku (1543-1590), though he withdrew somewhat from the powerful imagery. To it he added a naturalism of expression and later an elegant ornamentation. This refinement continued through Sanraku on to his adopted heir Sansetsu (1590-1651). This captivating two-panel screen suggests the stylistic succession from Sanraku to Sansetsu. 

Originally this screen was larger and its original format may well have been sliding door panels. In the distant past it was reconfigured and there are discontinuations in the composition on the right panel, approximately 4.5 inches from the central fold. The discontinuity would be much less obvious when the screen was standing in a zig-zag pattern, as would traditionally have been the case. The screen is in very good condition and has just been fully remounted, utilizing the Edo period frame and silk brocade. 

**Kyoto National Museum et.al. eds., Kano Painters of the Momoyama Period: EITOKU’S LEGACY, (Kyoto, 2015), p.44, 45, no. 4. ‘White Herons with Yew Pines’’ by Kano Sanraku.