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The Sound of One Hand Knocking: Kano Sansetsu’s Solitary Encounters

A robed, smiling man standing beneath a tree near the doorway of a wooden building, painted in various shades of ink.
Kano Sansetsu, A Visit to Li Ning’s Secluded Dwelling and Wang Ziyou Visiting Dai Andao (detail), Japanese, Edo period, mid-17th century. Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink and gold on paper. Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, TL41799.12.


This event was recorded. Please view the talk on our Vimeo channel.

We’re bringing Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection to you! Join us this spring for a series of virtual conversations exploring themes and highlights of the exhibition.

If hearts are in harmony, do we have to travel for a meeting of minds to take place? Matthew McKelway retraces the paths of two such “meetings,” legendary for never having taking place, but depicted, nevertheless, by Kano Sansetsu (1590–1651) on a pair of folding screens. Thanks to McKelway’s research, the screens are now titled A Visit to Li Ning’s Secluded Dwelling and Wang Ziyou Visiting Dai Andao.

Sansetsu, head of the Kano school of painters in 17th-century Kyoto, is remembered for his boldly individualistic pictorial style and mastery of an immense range of subjects based on close study of history and classical literature. These remarkable screens embody Sansetsu’s peculiar visual and thematic inclinations. Why did Sansetsu choose to celebrate these episodes of reclusive eccentricity? What led him to pair these two stories? And why should such a work have been created in the old imperial capital of Kyoto during the early years of the new Tokugawa shogunal regime, headquartered in the burgeoning eastern city of Edo?

Professor McKelway’s presentation will be followed by a response from Professor Yukio Lippit, co-curator of the Painting Edo exhibition, and a moderated conversation with curator Rachel Saunders.

Matthew McKelway, Takeo and Itsuko Atsumi Professor of Japanese Art History and Director of the Mary Griggs Burke Center for Japanese Art, Columbia University

Yukio Lippit, Jeffrey T. Chambers and Andrea Okamura Professor of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Rachel Saunders (moderator), Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Curator of Asian Art, Harvard Art Museums

Co-sponsored by the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University.

This talk will take place online via Zoom. Free admission, but registration is required. To register, please complete this online form.

For instructions on how to join a meeting in Zoom, please click here. If you have any questions, please contact

Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection was made possible by the Robert H. Ellsworth Bequest to the Harvard Art Museums, the Melvin R. Seiden and Janine Luke Fund for Publications and Exhibitions, the Catalogues and Exhibitions Fund for Pre-Twentieth-Century Art of the Fogg Museum, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Thierry Porté Director’s Discretionary Fund for Japanese Art, and the Japan Foundation. The accompanying print catalogues were supported by the Harvard Art Museums Mellon Publication Funds, including the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund.

Related programming is supported by the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund, Harvard University’s Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, and the Department of History of Art and Architecture Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Fund for Art and Architecture.

The Harvard Art Museums are committed to accessibility for all visitors. For anyone requiring accessibility accommodations for our programs, please contact us at at least 48 hours in advance.