Roll of Cloth for an Obi and Tortoise-shell Hair Ornaments (“Presents for One’s Beloved”), from the Butterfly Series, from Spring Rain Surimono Album (Harusame surimono-jō, vol. 3)
Ryūryūkyo Shinsai (Japanese, active ca. 1799–1823)
Edo period (1615–1868)
Privately published polychrome woodblock prints (surimono) mounted in an album; ink and color on paper
5 7/8 x 7 9/16 in. (14.9 x 19.2 cm)
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Surimono are privately published woodblock prints, usually commissioned by poets or poetry groups as a form of New Year’s greeting card. The poems, most commonly kyōka (witty thirty-one syllable verse), inscribed on the prints usually include felicitous imagery connected with spring, which in the lunar calendar begins on the first day of the first month. Themes of surimono are often erudite, frequently alluding to Japanese literary classics in both texts and images.
This album belongs to a set of three compiled by Hayashi Tadamasa, the great Parisian dealer of Japanese art. Hayashi arranged the more than four hundred prints in the set on facing leaves according to themes, or in a way that created an attractive arrangement of designs, complementary in both color and shape. The pigments, printing techniques, and paper used for surimono often were of the highest quality, and represent the epitome of late Edo-period woodblock printing.