Kanō Eigaku 狩野永岳 (1790-1867)

Pair of Two-Panel Screens with Four Famous Chinese Poets

Inv. Nr. #17.004
Date Edo-period, 1. half of 19th c.
Material Ink on paper.
Dimensions Each 175 x 167, Painting 60 x 130 cm

Each painting is signed and sealed.

Price: EUR 12,000

A pair of two-panel folding screens with four individual paintings by Kanō Eigaku, the 9th leading master of the Kanō branch in Kyōto. He often signed under his name, as in this example, Kanō Nui'nosuke Eigaku 狩野縫殿助永岳.

The paintings on each panel depict four famous Chinese poets, which are beautifully matched with the four seasons. Spring is represented by a plum tree and a young boy feeding a crane as a symbol of good fortune in the new year. This image also refers to the Northern Song poet and literary figure Lin Bu 林逋 (967-1028), who lived on an island in West Lake near Hangzhou and was famous for his love of plum blossoms and for keeping a pair of pet cranes. After his death, he was given the name Lin Hejing 林和靖, which means "Grove of Harmony".


The summer panel shows the poet Li Bai 李白 (701-762) composing his poem "Viewing the Waterfall of Mt. Lu" (Wang lushan pubu 望廬山瀑布). In autumn, an old scholar is depicted with a walking stick in one hand and a bunch of chrysanthemums in the other. This figure refers to the famous poet Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (365-427) and his "Homecoming Poem" (Guiqulaici 归去来辞), which describes his joy at seeing chrysanthemums blooming on the fence of his home, where he returned after his retirement. Tao Yuanming's alias was "Master of the Five Willows" (Wuliu Xiangshen 五柳先生), as indicated by the trees behind him.

The most intriguing scene, however, is the winter panel, where a noble man on a horse and his attendant look back at a gate through a white, plain winter landscape. It is most likely that this painting refers to one of the most famous farewell poems in Chinese history, the "White Snow Song" (Bai xue ge 白雪歌) by Chen Shen 岑參 (715-770), which tells how Magistrate Wu returns to the capital from the Tang Dynasty border.


In Japan, these famous men of literature and poetry came to be regarded as intellectual immortals, and from the Middle Ages to the early modern period they were popular subjects for painting in both elite and secular circles.