Mochizuki Gyokkei 望月玉渓 (1874-1938)

Pair of Painted Screens with a Flock of Cranes

Inv. Nr. #16.001
Date Meiji period, dated 1906
Material Ink, colors, gofun and gold on paper
Dimensions each 366 x 173,5 cm

Price on request


A striking pair of Meiji period six-panel folding screens by Mochizuki Gyokkei 望月玉渓 (1874-1938) depicting a flock of cranes. Together, the two screens reveal a magnificent seven-meter-wide composition of interacting individuals painted in ink and mineral colors on a glittering gold ground.

It is a rare large-scale example of Gyokkei's excellent skill in depicting cranes, which can also be seen at the famous Heian Shrine in Kyōto, where he decorated the interior of the garden pavilion Shōbi-kan 尚美館 with paintings of many cranes. This building was moved from the Imperial Palace to the shrine grounds in Taishō 2 (1912), and Gyokkei was commissioned to recreate the wall design. However, compared to these paintings, the artist's signature on the left screen indicates that the work was completed on a winter day in Meiji 39 (1906). Thus, the screen painting appears to be six years older than the door panel and sliding door paintings at Heian Shrine.

It is interesting to note that Gyokkei actually used some of the cranes from the screens as models for his murals, which show, for example, a crane that seems to be a direct copy of the running crane with spread wings from the right screen. Unfortunately, the Shōbi-kan building and its impressive design by Gyokkei are only occasionally open to the public.


Another magnificent, more public work by Gyokkei, not with cranes but with peacocks, can be seen in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Mochizuki Gyokkei has succeeded his father Mochizuki Gyokusen 望月玉泉 (1834-1913), an official painter of the imperial palace. From him, Gyokkei inherited his precise brushwork through his training in the fifth-generation family style, which goes back to his great-grandfather Mochizuki Gyokusen (1692–1755), who founded the family studio that combined elements of Chinese painting of the Kishi school with influences from Shen Nanping and Japanese painting of the Maruyama-Shijō school as well as Western painting techniques.


See other works by Gyokkei here.