Mochizuki Gyokkei (1874-1938)

Pair of Painted Screens with Pines

Inv. Nr. #20.011
Date Late Meiji period, ca. 1905-1910
Material Ink and gold leaf on paper
Dimensions each H 175 x W 188 cm

Each screen is signed and sealed.

EUR 55.000 (VAT incl.)

A pair of two-panel folding screens by Mochizuki Gyokkei 望月玉渓 (1874-1938) depicting pine trees. The composition is split between both screens. The left one is showing young pines growing on a highly reduced piece of land that slightly shifts towards the right side of the other screen, whereas two large, old pines are growing towards the infinite sky. The strong vertical appearance of the trunks is only interrupted by a vital branch of the trees, thickly grown with dark needles. Together, the two screens disclose a gorgeous almost four-meter-wide composition of these highly symbolic plants on a luminous golden background.


Pine trees are among the most popular symbols for longevity and dignity in East Asian cultures. Their strong trunk stands for a long healthy life that resists even the worst circumstances of their surroundings. The rough trunks with the thickly covered branches are visualizing a common Japanese saying: "A thousand years is the pine tree green" (Shōju sennen no midori 松樹千年緑).

Therefore, the branches of pine trees are for example also widely used as decoration for the New Year, such as kadomatsu 門松 (lit. "pine gate").

In his composition on two separated screens, Mochizuki not only combines old pines with young ones - which can be understood as tokens for "continuity" and "renewal" - he also links them through formal qualities of his arrangement. The young pines on the left screen are slightly growing to the right, while the monumental trunks of the old pines are obviously bending to the left. In his composition, Mochizuki is treating the pines, old and young, as two aspects of the same thing, as if the artist wants to express his deep understanding that continuity is not possible without renewal and renewal not without continuity.


Mochizuki Gyokkei has succeeded his father Mochizuki Gyokusen 望月玉泉 (1834-1913), an official painter for the imperial palace. From him, Gyokkei inherited his accurate brushwork through his training in the fifth-generation family style tracing back to his great-grandfather Mochizuki Gyokusen (1692–1755), who established the family studio combining elements of Chinese painting of the Kishi school with influences by Shen Nanping and Japanese paintings by the Maruyama-Shijō school as well as western painting techniques.