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


This composition of flowers in a seasonal progression from spring to winter celebrates longevity with its auspicious motif of cranes. The brilliant colors, strong outlines in black ink, and profusion of pictorial elements are typical of the decorative formula established by Kano Motonobu (1476–1559), founder of the Kano school. The boldness, however, is more reminiscent of Motonobu’s grandson, the prolific Kano Eitoku (1543–1590), and the treatment of branches is closer to Eitoku’s style than to that of Motonobu’s other successors. The exaggerated dimensions of the pine and cedar trees, the attempt to create space for the projecting branches in the crowded composition, and the depiction of brushwood hedges in high relief suggest that the work dates to the late sixteenth century.