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Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-95), tiger screen
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This six-panel Japanese folding screen is painted in ink, colour and gold leaf on paper. It depicts tigers crossing a river, a subject inspired by an ancient Chinese legend that if a mother tiger gives birth to three cubs, one will always be a leopard (hyo). This scene shows the mother tiger taking her cubs across the river, being careful not to leave the ferocious hyo alone with the other cubs.

Maruyama Ōkyo was the most influential Japanese painter of his generation. He was particularly interested in portraying the natural world in a realistic way, and made studies from life wherever possible. Tigers are not native to Japan and at the time this screen was painted there were few, if any, tigers in captivity. Ōkyo, in common with other Japanese artists of the period, is therefore thought to have used house-cats and tiger-skins as the models for his tigers.

Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-95), tiger screen

From the studio of Maruyama Ōkyo, Kyoto, Japan, c. 1781-2.
Ht. 153,5 cm.
Acquired with the aid of the Art Fund.

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