Kanō Tōrin Yoshinobu, Yang Guifei and Peonies, a triptych of hanging scroll paintings

Edo period, AD 1781-1820

Yang Guifei (Japanese: Yōkihi) was the consort of Emperor Xuanzong (685-792) of the Chinese Tang dynasty. Xuanzong had the poet Li Bo compose for him poems likening her beauty to the peony, the most regal of flowers. As a symbol of a classical Chinese beauty, she became a popular theme in paintings and prints. Here she steps dramatically onto a table, seeming to challenge the viewer. The florid impression of the scene is further enhanced by the table decorated with a design of dragons and waves, her sumptuous robes, the tiled floor and the aronia (kaidō) tree behind.

Yang Guifei was often painted together with peonies, and here the flanking scrolls feature large red, pink, and yellow flowers, with insects hovering around them. Little of the work is left unpainted, and the blossoms are set against a brilliant blue background, matching that of the central scroll.

Yoshinobu (died 1820) was the head of the Saruya-machi branch of the Kanō school, which supplied the shogunate and the feudal lords with works of art. Indeed, the mountings of the paintings are woven with the triple hollyhock (mitsu-aoi) crest of the ruling Tokugawa family.

The signature on the central scroll reads 'Hakugetsusai Yoshinobu sei' and the seals read 'Tōrin-(?)-' and 'Kanō Yoshinobu'. The signature on the right scroll reads 'Tōrin Yoshinobu hitsu' ('From the brush of Tōrin Yoshinobu') and on the left reads 'Tōrin Fujiwara Yoshinobu hitsu'. The seals read 'Ka-shi no in' ('Seal of the Ka[nō] family').

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Kanō Tōrin Yoshinobu, Yang Guifei and Peonies, a triptych of hanging scroll paintings

Central scroll: Yang Guifei

  • Detail: signature and seals

    Detail: signature and seals


More information


I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)


Height: 1014.000 mm (each)
Width: 4351.000 mm (each)

Museum number

Asia JA JP 788-90 (1881.12-10.01361, 01364-5)


William Anderson Collection


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