Katsukawa Shunshō 勝川春章 Japanese
Calligrapher Tegara no Okamochi Japanese

Not on view

Another auspicious symbol for the New Year, Fukurokuju embodied both wisdom and long life in his truncated body and elongated head, carrying a sutra scroll from his walking stick. The Seven Gods of Good Fortune were very popular objects of worship among merchants in Edo and Osaka society. This immortal was also considered the personification of the south pole star in Chinese astrology.

Katsukawa Shunshō was a major ukiyo-e painter and print designer active in the latter half of the eighteenth century; a painting of Fukurokuju seems a departure from his usual subjects of beauties and actors. Most likely done late in his life, this hanging scroll painted in an eccentric, bravura ink style must have had personal meaning and may have been created in the company of friends. The inscription on the top, which postdates the painting, is by the kyōka poet Tegara no Okamochi (1734–1812), who is best known for a poem on old age titled Year's End:

Toshi nami no yo suru hitai no
shiwami yori kururu wa itaku
oshimare ni keri.

Mistaking the many years breaking
across one's forehead in wrinkles
for waves against the
shore we suddenly feel deeply our
own regrets at their passing.

Fukurokuju, Katsukawa Shunshō 勝川春章 (Japanese, 1726–1792), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, Japan

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