This work on a half-gold and half-silver ground and the other screen in this case were acquired by Charles Lang Freer as he sought to grasp the stylistic distinctions in the little-known world of Sōtatsu and his associates. Freer and scholar Ernest Fenollosa (1853–1908) attributed both screens to Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637), but the use of gold lines to render leaves is a Sōtatsu technique. The subject—the exotic maize plant—made its first appearance in Kyushu in the last quarter of the sixteenth century and moved gradually eastward. The coxcomb arrived in Japan much earlier. Together, the two plants were considered an auspicious symbol of vitality and resilience.
Coxcombs, Maize, and Morning Glories
Japan, early 17th century
Ink, color, gold, and silver on paper
Freer Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, F1901.99