National TreasureMerrymaking Under the Cherry Blossoms

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  • 紙本著色花下遊楽図
  • By Kano Naganobu
  • A pair of six-fold screens
  • Color on paper
  • 148.6x355.8each
  • Azuchi-Momoyama -Edo period/17th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-11530

The right screen of Merrymaking under the Cherry Blossoms depicts a festive party scene featuring a group of noblewomen beneath double-petaled cherry trees (J. yaezakura) in full bloom. On the left screen, aristocratic figures, seated in an octagonal building beneath blossoming aronia (J. kaidô) trees, watch a performance of the stylish fûryû odori (literally, "wind-flowing dance"). Particularly striking in this scene are the dancers garbed in beautiful robes and bent at the waist. The four women with swords at the far right of the left screen are thought to be performing the fashionable dance known as Okuni Kabuki. The figures are relatively large in relation to the painting as a whole, and the painter was clearly most interested in the figures and their enjoyment of the splendors of spring. It was from this focus on human activity that the outstanding genre paintings (J. fûzokuga) of the Kan'ei era (1624-44) developed.

Certain features of the background setting-such as the dependence on ink painting techniques rather than the lavish color and gold then popular in screen painting, and the compositional device of framing the entire scene with large trees placed at either end-suggest an old-fashioned mode of expression. According to the seal, the artist was Naganobu (1577-1654), the youngest brother of Kano Eitoku (1543-90), and although the painting's exact date of execution is unknown, it is believed to have been done some time in the 1610s. Previously, the painting was owned by the Meiji period (1868-1912) industrialist Hara Rokurô. It was being restored in 1923 (Taishô 12) when the Great Kantô Earthquake struck, and the two middle panels of the right screen were lost to fire.