Bamboo in the Four Seasons

Artist: Attributed to Tosa Mitsunobu (1434–1525)

Period: Muromachi period (1392–1573)

Date: late 15th–early 16th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color, and gold leaf on paper

Dimensions: Image (each): 61 13/16 in. × 11 ft. 9 3/4 in. (157 × 360 cm)

Classification: Screens

Credit Line: The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.268.44, .45


This pair of six-panel screens combines the traditional Chinese subject of bamboo with the four seasons. Starting on the right, the sequence begins with spring, where violets and shepherd’s purse are clustered at the base of a bamboo grove. Early summer is represented in the last two panels of the right screen and the first two panels of the left screen with the stout, conical forms of new bamboo shoots. Slender bamboo stalks entwined with red-tinged ivy suggest autumn. A stand of bamboo heavily weighted with snow brings the composition to a wintry close. The rhythmic cadences of the bamboo, arranged with reference to a ground plane, typify the decorative approach to screen composition practiced by artists of the Tosa school.

An inscription on the left screen by Tosa Mitsuoki (1617–1691) attributes the work to Tosa Mitsunobu, who is considered the school’s founder.