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Quails among Autumn Flowers and Plants, Tosa school artist not identified, possible attribution to Tosa Mitsukiyo (1808-1862), Edo period (1615-1868), first half 19th century. Photo courtesy Helena Markus Antique Japanese Screens.

Six-panel screen. Ink and colour on gold leaf. H 98 x W 371,8 cm

Tosa Mitsuoki (1808-1862), was the son ad pupil of Tosa Mitsuzane and the brother of Tosa Mitsubuni, the artist who painted the screen illustrated in our catalogue “Nature and Poetry” on the pages 44-45.

As his brother, he held various positions at the court and worked in Kyōto Imperial Palace at the time of its reconstruction in 1855. He painted in the traditional Yamato-e style, reviving it with his highly refined brush.

The quails are symbol of autumn and at the same time one of the favourite subjects of the Tosa artists. They are mostly represented in pairs among autumn grasses or millet. The quail become a popular theme in China in Song dynasty painting, and thereafter Muromachi (1333-1573) painters popularized it in Japan. In the early Edo period, Tosa Mitsuoki made a specialty of painting the bird, and certain porcelains of the Edo period also used a quail and autumn grass motif.

The composition develops mostly along the bottom of the screen with ample space left to the gold leaf. It depicts a group of quails among white, red, orange, yellow and pink chrysanthemum, kiku and pampas grass, susuki. Both, chrysanthemum and pampas grass, belong to the group of Autumn Grasses. The colours of the flowers are painted over gofun and therefore all in relief. The feeling it provokes in the viewer is that of being so real that one wants to come close and touch it.

Provenance: Japan.

Helena Markus Antique Japanese Screens. MasterArt at TEFAF 2014. 14-23 march 2014 - http://www.masterart.com/