Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons

Period: Momoyama period (1573–1615)

Date: second half of the 16th century

Culture: Japan

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

Dimensions: Image: 63 1/4 x 142 in. (160.7 x 360.7 cm)
Overall: 69 3/8 x 148 1/2 in. (176.2 x 377.2 cm)

Classification: Screens

Credit Line: Purchase, Mrs. Jackson Burke and Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation Gifts, 1987

Accession Number: 1987.342.1, .2


Across the twelve panels of this pair of folding screens, a rich profusion of bird and flower motifs celebrates the cyclical progression of the seasons. In the right-hand screen, springtime wildflowers and blossoming trees provide the setting for the main image of a crane with its young, while in the left foreground, a clump of summer lilies announces the transition through summer to fall and winter, which are represented in the left-hand screen. Spanning the four central panels of the pair is a clump of bamboo glimpsed beyond a golden brushwood fence and clouds. Emphasizing the leftward movement of the overall design, pink and white rose mallow, signaling late summer and early autumn, grow around the fence and fantastically eroded rocks to set the scene for a majestic finale in the snow-covered pine that arches across the screen. It frames a pair of mature cranes, whose stately confronting pose recapitulates the rhythm of the total design.