byoubu-e 屏風絵
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Paintings on folding screens *byoubu 屏風. The earliest record of painted screens in China goes back to 1c BC. The term byoubu found in the list of gifts from Silla in 686 (NIHON SHOKI 日本書紀, 720) is considered to be the earliest appearance in Japanese records, but whether they were painted or not is unknown. Moreover, following Chinese usage, byoubu in this case is thought to mean tsuitate 衝立 or free-standing screen. Painting on folding screens with multiple panels was well established in Japan by the 8c, as is attested to by the TOUDAIJI KENMOTSUCHOU 東大寺献物帳, which records that 100 screens were donated to the temple in 756. One of these 100 screens, the 752 Standing Lady with Birds' Feathers Torigeryuujo-no-zu 鳥毛立女図 in *Shousouin 正倉院 (now demounted into six separate panels) is the earliest and most precious extant example. Screen paintings became very popular in the Heian period. Although there are only a few extant examples from this period, many illustrated screens are found in the interior scenes depicted in handscrolls *emaki 絵巻, such as the Illustrated Handscroll of the Tale of Genji, Genji monogatari emaki 源氏物語絵巻, (early 12c, Tokugawa 徳川 and Gotou 五島 Museums, etc.). The byoubu-e of this period were divided into two groups: kara-e byoubu 唐絵屏風, or screen paintings with Chinese themes *kara-e 唐絵, which were frequently used in Buddhist ceremonies; and yamato-e byoubu やまと絵屏風, or screen paintings with Japanese themes, which depicted famous places in Japan, *meisho-e 名所絵, and monthly activities *tukinami-e 月次絵, and were produced to decorate palaces and aristocratic residences. Waka 和歌 poems and/or inscriptions were often written in rectangular spaces for inscription *shikishigata 色紙形, which were usually placed in the upper part of the yamato-e screens. A well-known example that has survived from late 11c is the Landscape screen senzui byoubu 山水屏風 originally housed in Touji 東寺 (now Kyoto National Museum), which depicts Chinese figures in a landscape and was traditionally used in baptismal ceremonies at the temple. Each panel of these early screens was surrounded by brocade. The panels were connected with metal hinges *zenigata byoubu 銭形屏風. Although the composition of the Touji screen continues from one panel to the next, more zenigata byoubu often each panel was decorated with an independent painting without any compositional sequence. With the invention in the late 14c of paper hinges, kamichoutsugai 紙蝶番, the panels were left without individual borders to form a continuous painting surface. Screens often were produced in pairs, making a composition even larger. During this period, artists commonly decorated screens with landscapes and flower-and-bird themes in ink painting *suibokuga 水墨画, with light colors. The 16c is referred to as the golden age of screen and wall paintings *shouheiga 障屏画. Painters executed these with thickly applied, bright colors against gold backgrounds *kinpekiga 金碧画, and such works were used to decorate castles and large military residences. In addition to landscapes and flowers-and-birds, painters also portrayed genre themes *fuuzokuga 風俗画. The popularity of screen painting continued during the Edo period (1600-1868), and byoubu-e in various styles were made by painters of the various artistic schools.


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