Detail View: The AMICA Library: Plants, porcelain bowl, and glass goblet

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Name: 
Katsukawa, Shunsho
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Dates/Places: 
Japanese; 1726-1792 Asia,East Asia,Japan
Creator Name-CRT: 
Katsukawa Shunsho
Plants, porcelain bowl, and glass goblet
Title Type: 
full view
Creation Date: 
c. 1789
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Woodblock print.
Classification Term: 
Creation Place: 
Asia,East Asia,Japan
Long surimono; 19.0 x 53.0 cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Art Institute of Chicago
Owner Location: 
Chicago, Illinois, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
The Art Institute of Chicago, The Clarence Buckingham Collection
SIGNATURE: Shunsho gaARTIST'S WRITTEN SEAL (kao), here printed: Yu(?)
Unusual among Shunsho's prints is this elegant still life of autumn plants in a porcelain bowl with an imported Western glass goblet. Though more usually considered a summer flower, here the morning glory twines around susuki, a kind of pampas grass and one of the 'seven plants of autumn' (aki no nanakusa). The bowl is of brightly enamelled Imari porcelain, with a design of fanciful 'Chinese lions' (shishi) and red peonies in alternating cartouches. On the surface of the water floats a red lacquer sake cup decorated with the character kotobuki (long and happy life). The printing was done with extraordinary delicacy and care to suggest the stems of the plants seen through the water in the bowl and the edges of the leaves seen through the glass goblet. Still life is an uncommon subject for prints of this period, but of course Shunsho's paintings of beautiful women contain many minutely rendered objects and accessories.Surimono were prints privately published in small editions for distribution among friendsor artistic or intellectual coteries. They were intended as festive (often New Year) greetings, invitations to private concerts or other performances, or mementos of some special occasion. Professional artists were commissioned to supply a design appropriate to a text, often a poem, and the whole was printed on luxuriously thick paper using the most refined color-printing techniques. For long surimono, the text was printed on the top half of the sheet-which is missing from this print.Quite possibly, however, the print was issued to commemorate an early autumn gathering organized by some cultivated person of advanced years (hence the 'felicitous long life' on the sake cup).Though there is no text, it is possible to date the print fairly exactly from the form of the signature and seal. Only in 1789 did Shunsho combine a signature in wide 'Teika' style (which he used from the New Year of 1789 until his death) with the dramatically curving kao seal (which he abandoned by the New Year of 1790). Long surimono from the 1780s-by Shunsho, Torii Kiyonaga, and Kitagawa Utamaro-have survived in very small numbers, and this is the only impression of the design currently known.
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