Painting the Eyes on a Snow Rabbit

Isoda Koryūsai Japanese

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During the Edo period, as a winter amusement, children often made snow sculptures and the two most popular types were the snow rabbit (yuki usagi) and the snow Daruma (yuki Daruma). This image transports a children’s outdoor pastime into an elegant interior setting where a woman, probably the boy’s mother, paints on the eyes of a snow rabbit he holds on a lacquer tray. The seated woman wears an obi decorated with chrysanthemum flowers, while the standing younger woman has a kimono with summer hydrangeas—a reminder that people often wore garments with unseasonal references to distract from frigid or humid weather. Instead of using berries to fashion the eyes of the snow rabbit, they are being painted on as if it were a Daruma figure, on which one eye is painted when setting a goal or making a wish

Painting the Eyes on a Snow Rabbit, Isoda Koryūsai (Japanese, 1735–ca. 1790), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Japan

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