The long-lived lacquer artist Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891) was one of the elite group of craftsmen schooled in the fashions of the Edo period who made the great leap from the dictates of the feudal society into the Age of Enlightenment and Westernization in Japan in the Meiji era (1868 -1912). He was apprenticed at the age of eleven to the great inro artist Koma Kansai II (1767-1835) from whom he learned the traditional techniques of makie.
In 1891 Zeshin was appointed a Teishitsu Gigei-In [Imperial Artist], and became a professor of the University of Fine Arts in Tokyo together with his fellow Imperial Artist Kano Natsuo (1828-1898).
This pair of miniature screens by Zeshin is extremely rare and no other examples are known. A set of four sliding doors with the similar composition by Zeshin is in the collection of The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts (fig. 1).