3 More
6 More

Mitate Asazuma bune (Parody of Asazuma Boat), 1804-05

Mitate Asazuma bune (Parody of Asazuma Boat), 1804-05
Signed Gakyojin Hokusai ga, sealed Kimo dasoku; inscription signed by Ota Nanpo (Shokusanjin)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
13 ¾ x 22 ¼ in. (34.9 x 56.5 cm.)
Okada Shin'ichiro (1883-1932), Tokyo, architect
Sasagawa Rinpu (1870-1949), Tokyo, haiku poet
Three Hundred Years of Ukiyo-e / Exhibition of Masterpieces from The Sakai Collection (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Inc., 1968). no. 58.
Nihon Ukiyo-e Hakubutsukan / Nikuhitsu Ukiyo-e meihin ten (Masterpieces in the collection of the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum) (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbun, Inc., 1985), cat. no. 52.
Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, ed., Nihon Ukiyo-e Hakubutsukan / Nikuhitsu Ukiyo-e senshu (Selected Ukiyo-e paintings in the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum Collection) (Tokyo: Gakken Co., Ltd, 1985). no. 170.
Japan Ukiyoe Academy, ed., Hokusai (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbun, Inc., 1993). cat. no. S5.
Nagata Seiji, ed., Dai Hokusai ten: Edo ga unda sekai no eshi (Great Hokusai Exhibition: International artist born in Edo) (Tokyo: Asahi Shinbun, 1993). no. 26.
Gian Carlo Calza, ed., Hokusai (Milan: Electa, 1999), no. III.45.
Hokusai ten (Hokusai exhibition) (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shinbun, Inc, 2005). cat. no. 163.
John T. Carpenter, ed., Hokusai and His Age (Amsterdam: Hotei Publishing, 2005). no. 14.
Nagata Seiji, ed., Shin Hokusai ten / Hokusai updated (Tokyo: Nikkei Inc., NHK, NHK Promotions Inc, 2019). cat. no. 132.
“Three Hundred Years of Ukiyo-e / Exhibition of Masterpieces from The Sakai Collection,” Tobu Department Store Gallery, Tokyo, 18-27 October 1968
"Nihon Ukiyo-e Hakubutsukan / Nikuhitsu Ukiyo-e meihin ten (Masterpieces in the collection of the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum)," Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 1985
"Dai Hokusai ten: Edo ga unda sekai no eshi (Great Hokusai exhibition: International artist born in Edo)," exhibited at the following venues:
Tobu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 2 January-14 February 1993
Otsu City Museum of History, Otsu, 2 March-11 April 1993
Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, Yamaguchi City, 20 April-23 May 1993
"Hokusai / Nihon Ukiyo-e Hakubutsukan shozo (Hokusai / The loan exhibition from the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum)," exhibited at the following venues:
Daimaru Museum, Tokyo, 29 December 1993-11 January 1994
Daimaru Museum, Osaka, 10 Feburary-15 February 1994
Daimaru Bunka Hall, Shimonoseki, 10 March-15 March 1994
Daimaru Museum, Kyoto, 24 March-5 April 1994
"Hokusai ten (Hokusai exhibition)," Tokyo National Museum, 25 October-4 December 2005
"Shin Hokusai ten (Hokusai updated)," Mori Arts Center Gallery, Tokyo, 17 January-24 March 2019

Brought to you by

Takaaki Murakami(村上高明)
Takaaki Murakami(村上高明) Vice President, Specialist and Head of Department | Korean Art

Lot Essay

In Parody of Asazuma Boat, Hokusai is working in the impromptu ink and light colors mode that he sometimes painted at small literary gatherings in restaurants. As is typical for such works, privately commissioned by Edo literati steeped in the lore of the Floating World, the subject is more complex than appears at first glance. A Yoshiwara courtesan is seated on three quilts, the multiple layers of bedding that mark her high status within the brothel. Her pillow, wrapped in paper, is set on the traditional lacquered wood stand. Beside her, a branch of spring willow emerges from a bamboo flower container on a post, suggesting an interior setting.
The inscription, by the poet-calligrapher Ota Nanpo (1749-1823), here styling himself Shokusanjin, is a humorous song written in the voice of the prostitute. John T. Carpenter translated it as follows in his Hokusai and his Age (Amsterdam: Hotei, 2005):
As one of the men who comes and goes,
on quickly cresting waves of fickleness,
you scribbled a poem on my paper pillowcase,
dipping the brush into the pool of the inkstone
that flows from the [ever-changing] Asuka River. (instrumental interlude)
While yesterday at the bed chambers
of the Okamoto House, there was a popular client,
And though it was not the goose
[of ancient Chinese legend that someone traded for calligraphy by Wang Xizhi],
we, the older and younger sister courtesans, exchanged with him
the scroll for a little bird appropriately called jushimatsu [ten sisters].
This ditty was composed when the courtesan Asazuma received a
pet bird called a jushimatsu in exchange for a scroll of calligraphy that had been brushed for her.
Nanpo recorded this incident—the courtesan who gave back his calligraphy in exchange for a small bird—in his diary in 1803. Soon after that, presumably around 1804, Nanpo repeated the inscription on this painting of Asazuma by Hokusai. Hokusai began using the combination of signature and seal seen here in 1803.
As for the image of the young courtesan seated on quilts beside a branch of willow, it would have been understood by Hokusai’s audience as a parody of the boat prostitute Asazuma, a theme popularized by the artist-rebel Hanabusa Itcho (1652-1724) in the early eighteenth century and then widely circulated in a woodblock-printed version of 1770. Itcho showed a boat prostitute of the port of Asazuma on Lake Biwa, seated in profile and facing left, with a willow tree prominent on the shore behind her; his image was thought to be a subversive reference to the shogun’s concubine and may have been the cause of his exile—a delicious whiff of scandal.
The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is a privately owned art museum in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture. It holds over 100,000 Japanese woodblock prints, regarded as the world's largest collection of this form of art. The museum was established in 1982 by Sakai Tokichi, a member of the Sakai merchant family, who have practiced business in Matsumoto for generations. The first family members to collect ukiyo-e were Sakai Yoshitaka (1810–1869), a paper wholesaler and art patron, and his son and grandson. Over the years, the collection has grown to include contemporary prints by Japanese artists. It is of interest that, in the postwar era, in 1953 and again in 1966, the Japanese government sent two exhibitions of National Treasures to various museums in the United States; one of those exhibitions included ukiyo-e paintings. In 1966, Sakai Tokichi (1915-1993) followed suit, sending a selection of his prints on a world tour to the Louvre, the Japanese Art Museum in Haifa, Israel, and to twelve venues in the United States, such as the New York Public Library. Photos show him at the opening reception at the New York Public Library with its director, Edward G. Freehafer (1909-1985) (far left), and Douglas Overton (1916-1978), Managing Director of Japan Society, New York (far right); Sakai also appears in Chicago at the home of the collector Avery Brundage (1887-1975).

More from Japanese and Korean Art

View All
View All