Japanese Art in the Asia Society Collection

Asia Society

Kano Ryokei Screens
Attributed to Kano Ryokei (died 1645)
Pheasants under Cherry and Willow Trees and Irises and Mist
Kyoto Prefecture, Nishihonganji
Edo period, first half of 17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink and color on gold leaf on paper

The native Japanese painting style, yamato-e, features bright colors, gold ground, and seasonal motifs such as irises and cherry blossoms from classical literature. When the capital moved from the historic cultural heart of Kyoto to an as-yet-undefined and brave new Edo (now called Tokyo) in the seventeenth century, gender-based comparisons of the two cities began to appear in contemporary literature. Yamato-e works, such as this pair of screens executed by the Kyoto branch of the Kano school, were described pejoratively as "feminine" in contemporary art criticism. Edo-branch Kano works, on the other hand, exhibited Chinese styles and were perceived as more "masculine," and hence were more highly esteemed (see screens in next section). This tradition continues in modern art-historical scholarship.

Screens were designed in such a way that different configurations were possible, often depending on the size of the room. In this case, a pair of screens face each other and are arranged in an accordion fashion.