Lady and her maid walking by a river Ki no Tomonori
Harunobu, Suzuki; designer; Japanese printmaker, 1724-1770
circa 1767 circa 1768
Colour print from woodblocks, with blind embossing (karazuri). Chûban, 277 x 207. Signed: Harunobu ga. c.1767-8.
bequeathed; 1941; Raphael, Oscar C.
This is one of a number of prints with the name of a classical poet and his or her poem inscribed in an area defined by stylised clouds across the top, and with the references in the poem illustrated in a modern setting below. They belong to various untitled series based on classical poetry anthologies, such as Sanjurokkasen (Thirty-six poetic sages), Hyakunin isshu (One hundred poets, one poem each), or Kokin wakashû (Collection of poems past and present), compiled in the Heian and early Kamakura periods (794-1186; 1186-1336). Harunobu also designed a book, Ehon hana-kazura (1764), which illustrates all thirty-six poems in the Sanjurokkasen anthology. The designs in the book appear to have provided the basis for some of these later single-sheet prints. The poem at the top of this print is by Ki no Tomonori (active c.850-904), a kinsman of Ki no Tsurayuki: When evening falls and the river-breeze begins to blow over the sandy bed of Sano river, how the plovers twitter and cry after their mates! The figures are dressed for the snow. They wear high wooden clogs (geta), split-toed linen socks (tabi), and carry ‘snake’s-eye’ umbrellas (janomegasa). The maid’s clogs are plain wooden, while those of her mistress are lacquered black. The latter also wears a black winter hood, called a ‘high-priest hood’ (okôso zukin) after its appearance on a famous statue of the thirteenth-century priest Nichiren. The maid carries a lantern. Blind-embossing (karazuri) from a block printed without ink creates ridges of paper that appear like ridges of snow.
Bequeathed by Oscar Raphael 1941 (received 1946)
Kachôfûgetsu: the natural world in Japanese prints. 2009-02-17 - 2009-05-17
Organiser: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Cambs.), UK
Venue: The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Cambs.)
Object Number: P.181-1946
(Paintings, Drawings and Prints)
(record id: 182589; input: 2011-03-29; modified: 2017-01-03)