Screen with Scattered Fans

Artist: Tawaraya Sōtatsu 俵屋宗達 (fl. ca. 1600-1643)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, early 17th century
Color, gold, and silver over gold on paper
H x W (image): 154.5 × 362 cm (60 13/16 × 142 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screen (six-panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), fan, Japan

Unidentified owner, Kaga [1]

To circa 1882
Mr. Yamanaka, to circa 1882 [2]

Mr. Yamada of Koriyama, Japan, purchased from Mr. Yamanaka circa 1882 [3]

From 1899 to 1900
Yamanaka & Company, puchased from Mr. Yamada in 1899 [4]

From 1900 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company in 1900 [5]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [6]


[1] According to Curatorial Remark 3 in the object record: "Not from Original Screen List. Formerly owned by Mr. Yamada of Koriyama, Yamada. Mr. Yamanaka sold this screen to Mr. Yamada about 1882 and bought it back again in 1899. Originally, Mr. Yamanaka says it was owned in Kaga."

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See note 1. See also, Cuatorial Remark 1 in the object record, as well as Original Screen List, L. 37, pg. 7, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[5] See note 4. The majority of Charles Lang Freer’s purchases from Yamanaka & Company were made at its New York branch. Yamanaka & Company maintained branch offices, at various times, in Boston, Chicago, London, Peking, Shanghai, Osaka, Nara, and Kyoto. During the summer, the company also maintained seasonal locations in Newport, Bar Harbor, and Atlantic City.

[6] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Mr. Yamada
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1917-1965


After fans were painted, they were usually mounted to framework made of wood or bamboo that the owner could fold compactly when the fan was not in use. Occasionally, fans were pasted to folding screens such as this one. Here the fan framework is painted on the gold leaf to resemble bamboo or lacquered wood.

Japanese fans were decorated with gold or silver or with miniature paintings. Painters enjoyed the challenge of arranging scenes from historical or fictional narrative, landscapes, poems, or birds and flowers within the distinctive flaring shape of the folding fan. Sotatsu, an innovative painter who enjoyed the patronage of aristocrats in Kyoto, headed the fan workshop known as Tawaraya, which produced the fans for this screen.

The Japanese idea of mounting fans in a scattered pattern intrigued Europeans and Americans during the second half of the nineteenth century, when many new ideas inspired by Japanese art were influencing artists and popular taste. Folding fans were a fashionable element of the furnishings of many nineteenth-century European and American houses. Fans of Japanese design are often an important motif in the work of the American artist James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903).

Published References
  • Helen Honcoopová, Joshua Mostow, Makoto Yasuhara. A Book of Fans. Prague, Czech Republic, November 15, 2016. Cover, Endpapers, and p. 139, fig. 28.
  • Diane de Margerie. Mon Eventail Japonais. Paris. Cover.
  • Joshua Mostow. Courtly Visions. Japanese Visual Culture, vol. 12. .
  • Satoko Tamamushi. Tamaraya Sotasu and the Tradition of Gold and Silver Paintings in Japanese Art. Japan. .
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 42, vol. 2: p. 166.
  • Seikado Bunko Art Museum. Yuko Kobayashi, Scenes from Miotsukuhi and Sekiya Chapters of the Genji Monogatari. Exh. cat. Tokyo, April - May 2006. p. 48.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 121.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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