Birds and Flowers

Birds and Flowers


late 1500s

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Kano Mitsunobu 狩野光信

(Japanese, 1565-1608)

Kano Shōei 狩野松栄

(Japanese, 1519-1592)

Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper

Image: 155.5 x 340 cm (61 1/4 x 133 7/8 in.)

Gift of William G. Mather 1948.128


Did you know?

The inscriptions on these screens are not signatures of the artist, but instead an attribution to the painter Kano Eitoku (1543-1590) by his youngest brother, Kano Naganobu (1577–1654).


Unhurried contemplation of these screens reveals that their appearance differs slightly. Notice the shapes of the rocks and pine trunks. The actual ink lines defining their contours and the many brushstrokes providing textual definition to forms and surfaces show two distinct hands at work in the late 16th-century Kyoto.

Both Kano Shōei and Kano Mitsunobu were well known throughout the country for their skills. As masters of the Kano academic painting style, they naturally favored Chinese-inspired subject matter, such as birds and flowers, rendered in emphatic ink tonalities and placed within mountainous landscape settings. As can be seen in the screen on the right, military class patrons frequently requested scenes depicting predation, such as hunting scenes that were inserted as additional subject matter in otherwise tranquil vistas celebrating flora and fauna.

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