Picturesque byoubu folding screens (byobu means “protection from the wind” in Japanese) were first created in the eighth century, to block cold drafts from entering open-concept Japanese homes.

 

Made of paper panels, they were also canvases for artists who painted idyllic views of nature – some of which were commissioned by the warrior elite.

 

 Inspired by the work of Japan’s finest decorative artists of the 16th to 19th centuries, antique furniture dealer and interior studio Altfield has produced a series of intricate screens that a samurai would be proud of.

 

The panels are composed of carefully joined wood lattice frames and lacquer rails. The makers also composed a zigzag construction which allows a byoubu screen to be both freestanding and wall-mounted. 

 

Wisteria and sakura flowers, as well as flowing rivers and bamboo groves, are common motifs found on Japanese screens; they are meant to depict a perfect world that is one with nature. Take the depiction of Mount Fuji on this screen by Altfield (below), for instance. Painters would illustrate on distressed paper or squares of gold, silver and metal leafs. 

 

 

Did you know? The Rinpa school, a historical group of Japanese painters, was influential in defining the style and tradition of Japanese art in the 17th and 18th centuries. It prefers themes of nature as well as vibrant colours and elegant patterns.

 

Visit Altfield’s collection of Japanese screens at www.altfield. com.hk