The Byōbu "wind wall" are Japanese screens made up of 4 to 6 panels (the latter being the most common). They serve as partitions or decor for dances in the ceremonial context. They are usually adorned with seasonal flora and fauna, painted in gouache on a gold leaf background.
The large gold "solids" highlight the quiet strength of decorative elements such as cypresses (Paine 1981) which seem to emerge from the mist invoking a symbolism. The convention of these "floating clouds" is even older than classical Yamato-e art. It is a tradition of Chinese academic art (from the 4th century) which consists in purifying a landscape by masking certain details with a solid color, with the aim of emphasizing symbolic elements. These are often narrative scenes, with sectional plans of temples.
Founded by Kanō Masanobu (1434-1530) who gives it its name, the school emerged in the Momoyama period (1573-1603) and remained popular throughout the Edo period (1603-1868). Techniques are passed down from master to apprentice and students reproduce masterpieces regularly. As a result, many copies or interpretations reappear through three centuries of creation, which can make it difficult to date the works. The school survives political changes by being moved from Kyoto to Tokyo. A name and a work to remember: Eight-panel screen representing cypresses, attributed to Kanō Eitoku (grandson of the school's founder, Momoyama period), 1.7 x 4.61 meters, 1590, Tokyo National Museum
The Byōbu are folding Japanese screens, made up of several panels mounted in a movable manner. The panels are formed of wooden frames covered with silk, or several layers of fine paper.
Borrowed from the Chinese, the six-panel screen is most common during the Nara period (646–794), when it was hung with silk. The paintings on each panel are wrapped in silk brocade, and individually encased in a wooden frame. The panels are then assembled to each other with leather or silk ties.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), the samurai were particularly fond of byōbu, which then came under social representation. The merchant class is experiencing a real boom in the face of demand. Handicraft manufacturing is transformed into industry, and entire families specialize in their creation and pass their knowledge on from father to son. During this period, the external frame in black or dark red lacquered wood appears, to which are added ornate metal parts to protect the corners.
• Matsu pines
The cypress is a good omen in Japan, the iconography of the matsu pine is the same. It represents unwavering strength. The Taoists feed on its seeds, resin, needles, and this food is said to be sufficient and allows the body to be light and to fly until it reaches immortality. Its foliage is evergreen and its resin is incorruptible. It is used in temple construction and in fire rituals.
In China, the pine is also associated with the cypress and is represented on the gates of "heaven and earth", stays of immortality. It is also associated with other symbols of longevity such as the crane and the mushroom with which it forms a triad. Another triad associates it with bamboo and plum.
Several of these symbols are present in the iconography of the screen. Of course the matsu and the cranes, which form the main subject, but also;
• Tancho cranes
Tancho cranes are revered in East Asia as sacred and symbols of eternal life - they are said to live a thousand years. They were regular residents of China, Korea and Japan and are a popular subject. They are now endangered. (Pdf: Bridge of Dreams, The Mary Griggs Burk collection of Japanese Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, p.276 "Flock of cranes" Edo (1615-1868) by Ishida Yutei (1720-1786).
the tancho crane which has red on the forehead and black wing tips.
The decor of cranes and the aquatic landscape on a golden background is a recurring theme very popular in Japan. it is frequently encountered in Kano School. Cranes symbolize longevity and loyalty, and this six-panel screen may have been used as part of a ceremony or wedding gift.
The screen paintings begin with a preparatory monochrome kaboku drawing "splashed ink" on the neutral, white-beige tint of paper (or silk). The background is then delimited and then gilded with leaf, recognizable by squares.
The sumi black ink, is obtained by a mixture of soot and nikawa animal glue. It comes from China, and its manufacture dates back as far as the creation of paper, without change in composition since 500 AD.
There are two types of sumi; one comes from the soot of camellia or burnt yuenboku grapes, on the same principle as Western carbon black, except that this ink has a brown tint. It is then called chaboku "brownish ink". The other comes from the soot of the pine tree, it is called shoenboku, which means "bluish ink". The particles are larger than those of yuenboku (grape seeds).
The pigments are pressed into a wooden mold with glue and a perfume.