Cypress Fan

  • Muromachi period
  • 14-15c
  • Wood (hinoki=Japanese cypress), color on surface
  • H-40
    Attributed to Kumano Hayatama shrine
Catalogue Entry

Muromachi period, 14th to 15th centuries
Wood, color on surface
Length of spokes, 40.0cm

A folding fan is either used to fan oneself or is carried by men and women of the aristocracy as a symbol of their majesty. This cypress fan is made up of 27 thin sheets of cypress which have been bound together at the ends by silk cords, allowing the fan to be opened or shut as necessary.

The front and back surfaces of the fan are decorated with mica, cut gold and silver leaf, and thin strips of gold and silver leaf that form patterns of trailing clouds and mists. The front surface has a design of pine trees on a beach with red and white flowers, while the back shows a polychrome scene of autumn foliage and distant mountains, both scenes giving the fan an overall decorative appearance. The white silk cording presently used to bind the fan is a later addition.

In terms of its polychrome techniques and the size and number of spokes, this fan resembles an example transmitted as one of the shrine treasures at Kumano Hayatama Taisha. The treasures of the Kumano Hayatama Taisha (Shingu city) were presented to the three main shrine buildings, the 12 shrines, and the Asuka shrine, which is Kumano's affiliate shrine, upon the occasion of the construction of new shrines and the enshrinement of the deity forms in 1390 (Meitoku 1). 10 cypress fans are extant among these shrine treasures.

A detailed comparison of the present fan with these Kumano fans shows that the Kumano fans all depict birds and flowers, trees or scenery relatively clearly differentiated within a background of mist, clouds, and landscapes. This fan, on the other hand, reveals a more desultory handling of that balanced representation and a vaguer rendering of detail areas.
The close resemblance between the form and intent of the present fan with that of the Kumano fans indicates an extremely close relationship between the Kumano Shrine treasure fans and this fan, and there would not appear to be too great a difference in their date of production. SS