Folding Screens

folding screen with raised borders and decorative hand-painted design
folding screen with raised borders
hand-painted folding screen with peacocks
folding screen with peacock
decorative folding screen with raised antiqued gold wood borders and hand applied silver leaf
decorative folding screen

History of Folding Screens - Chinese Folding Screens

History of folding screens starts in China, where they appeared in the VII century. These sophisticated pieces of furniture were made in wide range of sizes, from extremely large oversized folding screens that were used in spacious palaces, to miniature decorative screens that could comfortably fit on a tabletop.

Folding screens used as room dividers was constructed from several panels attached to each other. The most popular in VII century China room dividers were six or eight panels folding screens. Chinese masters are famous for their complex ancient lacquer application techniques.

Most known technique used in creation of folding screens - "naciju" - is a labor intensive multi layered lacquer application technique with gold leaf inserted into the lacquer on the different levels. Masters applied up to 30 layers of lacquer and each level had a unique gold leaf pattern. As a result - a magically glowing surface of the screen that exudes energy. Another popular unique decorative technique used by Chinese artisans in creation of folding screens is dimensional carving on the clay surface.

Folding screens that are made by using this method are known as Coromandel screens. Each panel of coromandel screens was made from wood and covered with many layers of soft clay followed with multiple layers of lacquer. Then opulent designs with landscapes, flora and fauna motives, and calligraphy writing, were skillfully engraved in a different relief (high and low) into the screens panels, creating a breathtaking three dimensional effect. The Coromandel screens were then painted and embellished with gold or silver leaf.

The unique screen making techniques passed from generation to generation and are widely used and popular today.

coromandel screen with peacocks
Coromandel Screen with peacocks

Chinese folding screens often feature dragon motif. The dragon is probably one of the most familiar Chinese motifs. It is a first of all animals, and a symbol of masculinity, light, growth and life-giving water. As a king of the animals it is also represent nobility and royalty. According to Chinese mythology the dragon has nine features it takes from other animals: head of a horse, the antlers of a deer, the neck and tail of a snake, the belly of a shell, the scales of a carp, the claws of an eagle, the soles of a tiger and the ears of an ox. In decorative painting on the folding screens, one or several of those characteristics was emphasized, depend upon the fusion of the time. The dragon depicted as an element of outer border design is symbol of prosperity, peace and happiness.

decorative folding screen with hand painted birds, flowers and blossoming trees on a silver leaf background
Astonishing design, brilliant combinations of colors, impressive craftsmanship and quality painting make this luxurious decorative folding screen a showpiece of artistry. Panels of this folding screen are crafted from wood and are than hand-painted by artist on an antiqued background. The back of this folding screen is painted in antiqued cracked ivory finish. Full of life and joyful energy the painted design of this screen features flowers and a lot of different kind of interacting birds...read mote about this folding screen >>

Often a beautiful male and female peacocks were depicted on the panels of the folding screens. In ancient times the peacock was known to the Chinese only by reputation, but, as the empire extended southward into tropical climates, interest in this spectacularly colored bird exploded. the T'ang culture also saw the spread of folkloric beliefs involving the peacock, one that the bird would dance on seeing its reflection in a mirror. This likely accounts for the appearance of peacock as a decorative motif on the furnishing, folding screens, and decorative mirrors.

Other traditions imported from continental Asia link the peacocks to Buddhism. According to legends that originated in India, this birds eat snakes, especially of the poisonous variety, can avert natural disasters, and is a symbol of immortality. Legendary combination of strength and beauty of the peacock led to its extreme popularity as a decorative subject. Painted on folding screens often portrayed peacocks in realistic manner. As an example, flawless and incredibly proportioned compositions of the large folding screen with peacocks assimilates as a whole and represent a cohesive masterpiece

Romantic compositions of the folding screens often featured landscapes and swimming swans. It is interesting to know that swans share with other large white birds in East Asia a reputation for being able to travel between haven and earth. Associating with heaven, swans are often used in hand-painted decorative motifs on the folding screens. Variety of large birds depicted on hand-painted folding screen are an example of this design motif.

Often foreground of the folding screens contained one large central scene with a predominance of flowers and birds. Folding screen with silver background featured on our website is showcasing this composition.

Flowers celebrated in poetry and art, being combined by artist in a gorgeous design that alludes to timeless classics. Chinese consider tree peony ("the king of flowers") and regard this opulent flower as a symbol of good fortune, high honor, and the spring season. Beautiful peony tree is a mane element of the composition of the arched folding screen. Artist using peony flowers extensively in paintings on folding screens, portray the plant together with gallinaceous birds like long-tailed fowl. Moreover, they associate this flowers with romance and love, using it in particular to reverence romantic feelings of women. In China in the flower-and-bird painting tradition, peony flowers trimmed with fowl


Japanese folding screens


Coromandel screens - the art of Coromandel


oriental folding screens