Kanō Eisen'in Michinobu, Cranes, a handscroll painting

Japan
Mid-Edo period, mid-18th century AD

Birds of good omen

Since ancient times the tsuru (crane) has been regarded as a bird of good omen, possessing divine properties - not only in east Asia, but in Europe as well. Its elegance and dignified appearance have been the main reason for this. The crane was believed to live for one thousand years, and thus became a symbol of longevity. It was often paired with the turtle (also regarded as an auspicious symbol of long-life), and they were both believed to live in the Daoist island paradise of Mt. Hōrai.

This scroll presents cranes in a variety of poses and situations, but in the scene illustrated we have twelve birds gathered around pine, bamboo and plum trees. These plants were also regarded as auspicious symbols (referred to as the 'three friends of winter'), representing long life, steadfastness, and beauty respectively. There are three types of crane shown here: ma-tsuru on the right (grey plumage and red legs), several tanchō-tsuru (red-crested), and one nabe-tsuru (grey all over).

Kanō Eisen'in Michinobu (1730-90) was the sixth generation head of the Kobiki-chō branch of the Kanō school in Edo (modern Tokyo), and as such was very famous. The signature reads 'Michinobu hitsu' ('From the brush of Michinobu') and the seal reads 'Fujiwara'.

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More information

Bibliography

I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1992)

Dimensions

Height: 301.000 mm
Length: 5450.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 779 (1881.12-10.01445)

JCF1223

William Anderson Collection

Location

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