Old Plum

Title: Old Plum 
Date: 1646 (Edo Period)
Artist: Kano Sansetsu (1590–1651)
Culture: Japanese 
Origin: Kyoto 
Medium: Four sliding-door panels (fusuma); ink, color, gold, and gold leaf on paper
Dimensions: Overall (of all four panels): 68 3/4 x 191 1/8 in. (174.6 x 485.5 cm)
Repository: The MET (New York)
Department: Asian Art 

Four painted sliding door panels (fusuma) utilizing ink, color and gold leaf generate this composition entitled Old Plum originally commissioned for a Zen temple in the mid seventeenth century during the early Edo period. The plum tree expands across all four panels creating a distinct contrast to the warm gold tone that assumes the background of the composition. The organic movement of the tree and its expanding branches encourages the eye to explore its moments across the four panels. It’s unpredictable path creates an essence of progression and defines its strength to allow for such strenuous growth while still rooted in place. Its gnarled, twisting branches are decorated with delicate blossoms to be understood as a symbol of birth and renewal while generating a connection to the atmosphere of a cold early spring morning. The plum tree can be followed to the far left of the composition met with a grouping of azaleas to expand the narrative of seasonal progression from early spring to summer. The earth tones used in the overall composition of seasonal imagery aid in connecting the viewer to the natural environment to get the sense of being outdoors. Four stylistic door knobs are visible yet are understood as part of the craft of this functional piece and encourages interaction with the viewer. 

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Author: Jake Leone

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