The Art of Japanese Screens and Furnishings

Ref. 5454

A two-fold paper screen painted in ink and colour on a gold ground with suzume (sparrows) and take (bamboo).

Japan Edo period 18th century

Dimensions: H. 167cm x W. 149.5cm


Take (bamboo) in Taoism and to a lesser extent in Buddhism symbolises the notion of emptiness, this is due to the tube-like structure of the bamboo. Just as the tao (the ineffable ‘way’ of Taoism) arises from nothing and returns to emptiness, the bamboo is empty at its core. In East Asian philosophy such emptiness is perceived in a positive rather than a negative light. It is also a symbol of purification.

Haiku by Otagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875)

This gentleman
Grows and grows
Most auspiciously
Learn from him and
You, too, will flourish for ever.

Written at the age of 80 (1870)

Susume (Sparrows)

The association of the sparrow with bamboo or rice heads is an old one and is often found depicted in Japanese art. The bird is said to be obsessed with honor and especially with the repaying of debts making it a particularly popular subject matter with the samurai class