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Extraordinary Tsutsugaki two panel byobu screen. Japan, late Edo to early Meiji circa 1860. Indigo dyed cotton with black lacquer frame and ornate metal mounts. 152cm high x 128cm wide (59.8 x 50.3 inches).


This striking and vibrant design positively pulses with life and energy. The sheer pleasure of drawing is wonderfully clear as the sho chiku bai (three friends of winter) motif bounces up and across the screen in a perky zig zag leading to a stunning rendering of a red cap crane, wing tips aflame with bright coral over the deepest of indigo grounds.


The tsutsugaki craftsmen weren’t classically trained, and weren’t constrained by the formalities placed on the traditional schools of Japanese artists. These were folk artists, commissioned by families to celebrate important events, and the work is consequently freer, more spontaneous and expressive than that of their professional counterparts.


Tsutsugaki is a resist dye technique, the design being applied freehand using rice paste in a piping bag known as a tsutsu. Normally only indigo is used, the majority of examples being blue and white. The additional colours used here are indicative of a high value commission.


The screen is of the highest quality construction. The cotton is tautly stretched and heavily backed with multiple layers of washi paper. The fabric covers and strengthens the paper hinges, making this a really robust piece, perfect for mounting on a wall or for continued use as a room screen. Tsutsugaki textiles were more commonly produced as futon covers and have had a lifetime's exposure to sunlight. Here, the original depth of the indigo ground has been beautifully preserved.


Condition: The ground has some small marks but is generally very clean, with no damage or wear. There is some variation in tone to the indigo, and the colours in the design are bright and strong. On the lacquer frame, there is a small white paint mark on the bottom right. Very minor losses of lacquer and small scratches, none very apparent or detrimental. To the back there is a torn flap of paper, exposing the layer beneath and a scratch that also goes through to the next layer. Because of the quality of the construction, these are purely cosmetic and don’t undermine the structure or pose a risk to the front. Residue from an old trade sticker to the rear of the lacquer frame, top right panel.

Please see further images here


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Rare Tsutsugaki Byobu Screen with Sho-chiku-bai and Crane

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