Kitao Masayoshi, Partridges, a colour woodblock print

Edo (Tokyo), Japan
Edo period, around AD 1790

From the album Raikin zui ('Pictures of Imported Birds')

A government official named Seki Mitsubumi was visiting Nagasaki in 1789. There he commissioned a Chinese artist resident in the city to paint a set of five handscrolls, showing birds which had been imported there from China in 1762 on a boat called the Hachiban ('Boat No. 8'). On his return to Edo, Mitsubumi showed the paintings to the publisher Matsumoto Zembei, who decided to publish a selection of the images as a de luxe woodblock-printed album at the end of 1790. The Ukiyo-e artist Kitao Masayoshi (1764-1824) was employed to copy the Chinese artist's paintings and make designs for the engravers and printers. A second volume published in 1792 gave information about the birds.

The birds are outlined in black following the normal Ukiyo-e convention. However, the landscape setting has been depicted using elaborate techniques to suggest the soft colour transitions of the original Chinese painting. These include texturing of the surface of the printing block or wiping the edges of inked areas. The only known complete copy of this rare album has recently been discovered in the collection of the Kōbe City Museum, Japan.

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More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

M. Narasaki (ed.), Hizō Ukiyo-e taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1988)


Height: 251.000 mm (covers)
Width: 187.000 mm (covers)

Museum number

Asia JA JIB90

not found on MERLIN


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