Cypress Trees

Kano EitokuAzuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo, Japan

This folding screen, celebrated as a representative work of monumental polychrome-and-gold painting of the Momoyama period (1573-1615), was handed down within the Katsuranomiya family (formerly known as the Hachijônomiya family). With the death of the final heir and subsequent end of the house in 1881, it became a Treasure of the Imperial Collection (J. gyobutsu). From the telltale traces of door pulls in the paper, it is believed that the paintings on these screens were originally sliding-door paintings in the Hachijônomiya residence, which was completed in the twelfth month of Tenshô 18 (1590). They are therefore thought to be a very late work by Kanô Eitoku (1543-1590), the most famous painter of the time.

Against a backdrop of gold-leafed ground and clouds, the powerful form of an enormous tree fills the screen with its great spreading branches. By simplifying the background, minimizing the number of colors, and by depicting the tree bark energetically with a seemingly coarse brush, the artist has emphasized the commanding presence of the cypress tree. The dark blue waters of a pond peek out from openings in the gold ground and gold clouds.

The strong life force of the powerful tree shows the artist's own passionate spirit and, at the same time, conveys the unconstrained aesthetic of Momoyama elite warriors.


  • Title: Cypress Trees
  • Creator: Kano Eitoku
  • Creator Lifespan: 1543 - 1590
  • Date Created: Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century
  • Physical Dimensions: w460.5 x h170.3 cm
  • Object Title: 檜図屏風
  • Object Notes(Japanese): 桃山時代の金碧障屏画の代表的作品として著名なこの屏風絵は、桂宮家(もと八条宮家)に伝来し、明治14年(1881)の宮家廃絶により御物となった。画面にある引手金具の跡から、もとは天正18年(1590)12月落成の八条宮邸の襖絵であったとされる。このことから、作者が当時画壇の第一人者であった狩野永徳(1543-90)の最晩年の作と考えられている。 金箔を貼った大地や雲を背景に、画面いっぱいに大枝を広げる巨木の圧倒的な姿が迫ってくる。背景を整理し、色の数を少なくし、藁筆のようなもので樹皮を荒々しく描き、檜の力強く堂々たるさまを強調する。金地と金雲の間からは群青の水をたたえる池水が見える。 巨木の強い生命力は、画家自身の激しい気概を示すと同時に、桃山武将の豪放な美意識を伝えている。
  • Object Date: 安土桃山時代・16世紀
  • Medium(Japanese): 紙本金地着色
  • Artist Name: 狩野永徳筆
  • Type: Painting
  • External Link: http://www.emuseum.jp/detail/100144
  • Medium: Color and gold leaf on paper

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