句会 (Poetry Party)

Designer: \'Sanpo\' | Carver: David Bull | Printer: David Bull

Size: 14cm by 23cm | Enlargement | Shipping Code: [M] ? | Currency: $ / £ /

Price: $ 60.00£ 48.50€ 55.25 [Reprinting]

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Description: This print is what is generally known as a ‘Shijo-style’ surimono - it is done in a very ‘painterly’ style, rather than in the crisp and clean ukiyo-e manner. The signature can be read as Sampo, although the inclusion of the character sha may indicate that he copied the image from some other artist, or it was copied from him. We can never know.

The original version (which is in the Mokuhankan collection) has a great deal more writing on it, including a total of 35 poems and the inscription kinoe tora toshi, which tells us that it must have been made in 1854. It was presumably made in commemoration of a get-together of a poetry group, who would have commissioned this surimono as a keepsake of the event.

It is interesting to look at the details of the image and to think about what kind of party they must have enjoyed that day. The red lacquered table, the patterns on the porcelain, the tall glasses for the drinks ... all these things tell us that it was ‘Chinese food’! But remember the date - this print was made in 1854, just one year after Commodore Perry and the first of the ‘black ships’ arrived in Japan and began the process of forcing open the country to the outside world. So were there Chinese restaurants already open in Yokohama so quickly? Well, I don’t know about that, but it does seem that the image many of us have of Japan as being a totally closed country during the Edo era is somewhat misleading. In research material illustrating Edo-era surimono, back to the early 1800’s we can see many indications of foreign items: telescopes, Persian clocks, imported Korean parakeets, and one print even mentions an imported goods shop in Osaka in the 1820’s.

We’re glad that the men who had the wealth and position necessary for access to such rare goods, were also interested in commissioning surimono prints to show them off!

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