Suzuki Harunobu, Hunting for insects, a colour woodblock print

Japan
Edo period, about AD 1767-68

Suzuki Harunobu (died 1770) was one of the first Ukiyo-e artists to develop techniques of full-colour printing from around 1765. He is already using the medium with great sophistication and delicacy in this print. The black background must have been printed several times to produce the soft velvety depth against which the two figures and lantern stand out to such effect.

The pair of lovers are hunting for insects, probably fireflies or chirping crickets, on an early autumn night. A small cage stands ready on the ground while the young man searches through a plant of bush clover. He turns for a moment to exchange an intimate glance with the woman who wears an elegant kimono with a pattern of flowering morning glory. Harunobu often echoes the courtly romance of the Heian period (AD 794-1185) in his works, and here we may have a reference to chapter 25 of Genji monogatari ('The Tale of Genji') which is a scene of insect-hunting.

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More information

Bibliography

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

Narazaki Muneshige, and Yamaguchi Keisaburo (eds.), Ukiyo-e shūka, vol. 2 (Tokyo, shu eisha, 1979)

Dimensions

Height: 261.000 mm
Width: 194.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA 1945.11-1.08

JCF6741

Bequeathed by Oscar Raphael

Location

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