Fans upon Waves
Edo period (1615–1868)
Six-panel folding screen; ink, color, and gold leaf on paper
40 3/16 x 113 5/16 in. (102.1 x 287.8 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Wave-based imagery and designs, popular among painters of the Rinpa school, are here combined with another favorite image, the folding fan (ōgi). A screen ornamented with fans acted as a sort of miniature museum where many works of art could be viewed at once. The fans often appeared against a background of flowing water, a type of imagery that may have evolved from the medieval custom of casting fans into the water to float upon the surface. Screens painted with the fans-and-stream motif, known as “fans afloat” (senmen nagashi), were often installed in shogunal residences and may have derived from a tale about a Muromachi-period shogun who accidentally dropped a fan from a bridge.