Poem by Fujiwara no Motozane (ca. 860) from the Series Thirty-Six Poets

Suzuki Harunobu Japanese

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In this illustration of daily life, Harunobu captures a mother's affection for her child. While hanging clothes to dry on a bamboo rod, she follows her son with her eyes as he chases a chick. Looking over her shoulder, she then turns and reaches as if to restrain him.

Shown in full bloom along the fence are white unohana flowers, which symbolize the fourth month of the lunar calendar, or early summer. Here, Harunobu associates the white blossoms and tenderness with a classical poem by one of the Thirty-Six Immortal Poets, Fujiwara no Motozane, inscribed in a cloud-shaped cartouche at the top. The lyricism of the poem resonates with the expressive quality of the mother-and-child scene:

Blossoming now in our mountain village,
the unohana flowers look like snow
still lingering on the hedge.

(trans. by Jack Hillier)

Poem by Fujiwara no Motozane (ca. 860) from the Series Thirty-Six Poets, Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese, 1725–1770), Woodblock print; ink and color on paper with embossing (karazuri), Japan

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