Ivy vines, bridges and floating fans

Artist: Tawaraya Sōtatsu 俵屋宗達 (fl. ca. 1600-1643)
Historical period(s)
Momoyama or Edo period, early 17th century
Ink, color, gold, and silver on paper
H x W (each): 170 x 381 cm (66 15/16 x 150 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Screens (six-panel)

bridge, Edo period (1615 - 1868), fan, Japan, Momoyama period (1573 - 1615)

Sugiyama, Kamaoka, Hyogo prefecture, Japan [1]

To 1902
Yamanaka & Company, to 1902, purchased from a farmer in Sugiyama [2]

From 1902 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company in 1902 [3]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] Mr. Yamanaka bought this pair of screens from Mr. Sugiyama, a farmer, living at Kamaoka. See Curatorial Remark #3 in the object record.

[2] Undated folder sheet note. See Original Screen List, L. 60, pg. 15, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. 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.

[3] See note 2.

[4] 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)

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


The image of painted fans spilling off from a bridge into a stream evokes the memory of the legendary journey made by a fifteenth-century shogun traveling from the center of Kyoto to an outlying temple. While crossing a bridge, one of the shogun's servants accidentally dropped his master's fan into the rushing water below. Struck by the sudden poignant reminder of beauty's fragility and fleeting nature, all in the shogun's retinue followed suit, casting their fans into the stream.

For the literate Japanese viewer, the image of ivy leaves set within long bands of color evoked a passage from the tenth-century collection of lyric episodes, Tales of Ise. In the ninth episode a group traveling to the east from Kyoto encounters an ascetic in a dark and narrow valley filled with ivy. The ascetic is implored by one forlorn traveler to carry back a message to his lady, who is waiting in the capital.

This skillful visual union of heretofore unjoined classical subjects in a common theme was a trademark of the seventeenth-century studio of Tawaraya Sotatsu (died circa 1642). In this instance, the two occasions provide ample reflection on the multiple meanings of happenstance.

Published References
  • Keiko Kawamoto. Nihon byobue shusei. 18 vols., Tokyo, 1977-1982. vol. 7: pl. 89.
  • Frank Feltens. Ogata Korin: Art in Early Modern Japan. New Haven, CT, October 12, 2021. p. 107, fig. 64.
  • Laurence Binyon. A Group of Japanese Screen Paintings in the Freer Collection at Washington. vol. 4 New York, October 1916. p. 328, fig. 2.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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