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Artist: Suzuki Harunobu (鈴木春信)

Print: Young man, as the bodhisattva Monju, sitting astride his vehicle, a lion

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Dates: 1760s,created
Dimensions: 4.875 in,25.625 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Harunobu ga (春信画)

Related links: British Museum; Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - a very similar but different print;

Physical description:

"This may form a pair with a design showing a courtesan seated on an elephant in a parody of the Bodhisattva Fugen (Sanskrit: Samantabhadra). The young man is almost certainly a prostitute from a 'tea house in the shadows' ('kagema-jaya') in the Kabuki theatre district. An elegant pipe and smoking set have been substituted for the sword od [sic] enlightenment normally carried by the Bodhisattva Monju (Sanskrit: Manjusri). The idea that a female prostitute may be a manifestation of a Buddhist deity has an ancient pedigree in scripture and literature, but the pairing with a male prostitute is novel. Although Koryūsai was the most prolific artist of pillar prints, his teacher Harunobu also designed large numbers - over 120 examples are presently known."

Quoted from the curatorial files of the British Museum.

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There is another interesting print on this same theme, with the same motifs by Harunobu in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. That one, however, is only 11 3/16 x 7 7/8 in, unlike this example which is about 25 x 4.9 inches. Yet both of these examples show the same young man, sitting on docile lions, and holding a basket like tray used to carry smoking utensils. He also hold a long tobacco pipe, the kind used by women at that time.

Is it possible that both this print and the one in Boston was underwritten by a well known tobacconist? Such things happened for advertising purposes, even when this is not spelled out directly with labels or text. Or, could it have been a design that struck Harunobu's fancy?