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Flowering Plants and Vegetables of the Four Seasons

Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
early 18th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink and light color on gilt paper
Dimensions:
Image (each screen): 64 3/16 x 146 7/16 in. (163 x 372 cm)
Classification:
Screens
Credit Line:
Gift of Sue Cassidy Clark, in honor of Dr. Barbara Brennan Ford, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.170.1, .2
  • Description

    These screens feature a profusion of flowering plants and vegetables painted with “boneless” (without outlines) brushwork in mineral colors and ink on a gold-leafed ground. Flowers and flowering grasses of the four seasons are depicted on the right screen; vegetables predominate on the left. Thirty-four flowering plants and thirty-two vegetables have been identified. On the right screen, these include violets, dandelions, and cotton roses. Large clusters of wild wisteria hang from the upper frame of the screen, while thin blades of miscanthus and iris grow high from below, creating vertical movement in the otherwise horizontal composition. On the left screen, corn, millet, and peas grow beyond the upper boundary, cleanly dividing the composition into two sections. The broad-leafed vegetation creates a bold visual contrast to the delicate flora painted on the companion screen. Other plants on the left screen include common vegetables such as carrots, eggplants, turnips, and radishes.

    During the eighteenth century, Chinese pharmacology and Western science, especially botany, drew the attention of Japanese intellectuals not only to classical literary plants but also to domestic flowers and vegetables in their natural environs. The screens were probably painted by an eighteenth-century follower of the Rinpa school’s great masters, Sōtatsu and Kōrin.

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
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