Kanō Eigaku (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 6,000

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


The paintings on each panel are depicting four famous Chinese poets that are matched beautifully with the four seasons. Spring is indicated by a plum tree and a young boy feeding a crane as a symbol for good fortune in the beginning year. This image is also referring to the Northern Song poet and literatus Lin Bu 林逋 (967-1028), who lived on a island in West Lake, near Hangzhou and who was famous for for his love of plum blossoms and for keeping a pair of pet cranes. After he died, he was given the name Lin Hejing 林和靖, meaning "Grove of Harmony". The Summer panel shows the poet Li Bai 李白 (701-762) whilst 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-staff in one hand and a bunch of chrysanthemum in the other. This figure is referring to famous poet Tao Yuanming 陶淵明 (365-427) and his "Poem of Home-coming" (Guiqulaici 归去来辞), which describes his pleasure about  chrysanthemums flowering at the fence of his home to where he returned to 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 looking back to a gate through a white plain winter landscape. It is most likely that this painting refers to one of most renown fare-well poems in Chinese history; the "White Snow Song" (Bai xue ge 白雪歌) by Chen Shen 岑參 (715-770), telling how the Magistrate Wu returns from the Tang-dynasty border back to the capital.


In Japan these famous men of literature and poetry came to be viewed as intellectual immortals, and from medieval though early modern times were a favorite painting subject, in both elite and secular circles.