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A Wheat Straw Crafted Spectacle (Mugiwara hari saiku shō utsushi: 麦藁細工見世物) -
the two right-hand panels of a four piece composition

Identifier: 1810s Hokusai zodiac
Description:

This unusual composition has something to do with the Zodiac (十二支). Six of the creatures of the Zodiac are illustrated here in their own separate plaques: hares, rats, tiger, oxen, dragon and snake.

According to the curatorial notes at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston this composition was published by Tsuruya Kiemon. They add: "The straw-work decorations were displayed at the Kinryūzan temple in Asakusa in the second month of 1820 (Bunsei 3)."

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Hokusai design of a sage and his attendant surrounded by Japanese artworks in representation of the signs of the zodiac. The set of four zodiac prints is exceptionally rare.


complete tetraptych

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Another possible inspiration for these prints can be found in the curatorial notes from the Metropolitan Museum regarding a series of prints by Kunisada and dated to 1819. The title of those prints is Basketry Work: By the Craftsman Ichida Shōshichirō of Naniwa (Kagozaiku Naniwa saikunin Ichida Shōshichirō - 籠細工 浪花細工人 一田庄七郎).

The Met notes state: "These prints on the theme of basket subjects by Kunisada were probably designed in autumn 1819, when an exhibition of basketry was held in the Ryōgoku district of Edo (present-day Tokyo). This exhibition also included a giant figure of Shutendōji (Drunken Boy Demon), which was portrayed in a Hiroshige triptych." (JSV)

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Illustrated:

1) in color in 原色浮世絵大百科事典 (Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten), vol. 4, p. 68. Only the three left-hand panels are shown here.

2) in color, the two left panels only, in 北斎美術館 (Hokusai bijutsukan or Hokusai Museum of Art), vol. 1, pp. 74-75.

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