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Sliding Door Panel with Design of Imperial Eagle, Plum Tree, and Camellia

This sliding door panel, adorned with a majestic white eagle perched on a blossoming plum tree, is the right half of a two-panel sugito (cedar door). The motif of the eagle, like the hawk, was most likely a symbol of the samurai (warrior) class in Japan. The eagle represented on this door has been identified as an imperial eagle, a species that originated on the east coast of China and migrated to Japan as early as the fifteenth century. Plum blossoms are often paired with camellias to represent the rejuvenation that comes with the first signs of spring.

Beginning in the Momoyama period and continuing into the Edo period (1615–1868), painted doors were commonly installed in the magnificent castle residences of the wealthy daimyo (feudal lords) and powerful shogun (military overlords). Constructed from wood and decorated with painted designs, sometimes with gilt backgrounds, sugito served to brighten these dark, damp castle interiors. Birds of prey such as the eagle and the hawk were particularly popular subjects, represented in screens and on sliding doors, and were often paired with trees or flowers.


(R-L Sneider Inc., New York);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1995.