A remarkable scroll consisting of 32 sheets forming 12 panels of preliminary but highly finished drawings and underdrawings in black ink and white, yellow, green, blue, pale red, and grey wash of for a Japanese folding screen, with a paper label on outside stating, in translation, "Twelve images of falcons for a byobu e [a folding screen] an heirloom of the Kano family." Scroll on paper (395 x 90730 mm., carefully backed at an early date). Japan: mid-Edo
by FALCONRY SCREEN DESIGNS
A remarkable survival: twelve original and highly finished drawings of falcons and hawks on their perches, with instructions on coloring and rendering, in preparation for creating a Japanese folding screen (byobu e). We have never encountered such a collection of drawings for a folding screen, revealing a Kano school artist at work. Because of the close association over the centuries to the shogun and aristocrats, Kano School artists had access to the government's mews where the falcons resided (bakufu taka beya). The sport of falconry has had a long history in Japan, beginning in the 4th century. With the succession of Yoshimune Tokugawa (1684-1751), in 1716, the sport of falconry became highly fashionable, an expensive and prestigious activity. It became one of the primary outlets for the militaristic energies of the samurai class during the long period of peace. With this new prestige, many paintings and screens featuring falcons and hawks were commissioned. This scroll contains 12 panels of highly finished preliminary paintings by a very accomplished artist - a member of the Kano School - for a yet unidentified screen. Each panel features a falcon or hawk on its perch. Many of the birds are rendered fully drawn and colored using highly skilled and intricate brush techniques, with notes by the artist on what colors to use for the perches, decorative braids, and background. Some of the colors include gold, pale peach, green, yellow, etc. The plumage of other birds are not fully colored and the artist has left very explicit and complicated notes about what coloring is required, how to execute certain effects by using certain kinds of white powder or paste, etc. Each perch has an elaborately knotted kumihimo, a braid to leash the falcon to its perch. Again, the artist has left elaborate instructions on how to color these braids, clearly intending them to be highly ornamental and beautiful. Background fabrics are depicted with embroidery or elaborate motifs, some already colored in green wash in several shades and some with instructions for coloring. The old label on the outside of the scroll states: "Twelve images of falcons for the screen painting (byobu e), an heirloom of the Kano Family. Old Images." The Kano Family School, the longest lived and most influential school of painting in Japanese history, existed from the 15th century into modern times. It was a hereditary assemblage of professional, secular painters with a broad range of painting styles, pictorial themes, and formats. Animals were a favorite theme of the School and the various artists painted many screens and doors. We have not yet identified the screen for which these preliminary drawings were executed - we leave it to the next owner to solve that mystery.
(Inventory #: 6089)
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