Baroque and Beyond C. 1600–1850

Asian Art

What is a painted screen?

In Japan, painted folding screens, called byobu, were popular in the imperial houses of the elite military rulers of the Momoyama period. While many of these castles and houses no longer exist, seventeenth-century screens made by the Kano family remain. Compared to Western standards, seventeenth-century Japanese houses were very empty, with no furniture or decorative trinkets filling interior spaces. Instead, move-able screens were painted in bold colors, often depicting nature, landscapes, and genre scenes. Painted screens by the Kano family include Cypress Tree, an eight-fold work attributed to Kano Eitoku (1543–1590), which was originally used as a sliding door. The artist emphasized the texture of the bark of the tree while simplifying the background, which serves to monumentalize the tree and evoke the vastness of nature.


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