- Museum number
Painting, hanging scroll. Young man dressed in blue kimono and striped green trousers, seated on a bench with one foot resting in his lap. Ink and colour on silk. Signed, sealed and inscribed.
- Production date
Height: 80.40 centimetres
Width: 32.70 centimetres
- Curator's comments
A young man dressed in a feminine-looking blue kimono with long, flowing sleeves decorated with white cherry blossoms and striped green 'hakama' trousers sits on a bench in an alluring pose with one foot resting in his lap and head inclined coyly forward. To judge by the content of the inscription he is on an outing to admire the flowering cherry trees in spring. The scroll seems originally to have formed a pair with another showing a young man reading a letter (reproduced in Kamakura 1974, no. 22), and both were probably painted for a patron who was homosexual. The British Museum painting has an inscription in Chinese-style couplets by one who calls himself simply 'yakko' ('your servant') addressed to 'young Sessen (or Yukibune)', who must be the object of his affections:
Spring breezes and spring rains imitate his lovely form
The dew sits heavy on a branch or two of blossom by the wayside
To so many things I would liken this beautiful one
[My eyes] brim with tears like waves
As he rests there on the bench.
The drawing of the face, hands and lines of the young man's costume is similar to paintings from Hokusai's preceding Iitsu' period, such as 'Woman Dancing with her Hands Raised' (Obuse 1985, p. 9), and it is interesting to see that the artist continued to work in this style into his eighties. The details of the accessories - the dots of the sharkskin scabbard and cord of the jacket - are meticulously rendered, yet each stroke is unique in character. The 'Katsushika' seal is completely different from that on works of the 'Iitsu' period (nos 98, 100) but seems to be comparable with that on the late masterpiece 'Eagle and Cherry Blossom' (Ujiie Collection; 'NU', vol. 7 (1982), no. 33). While Japanese artists did not as a rule recut their seals, Hokusai used different 'Katsushika' seals in his 'Iitsu' and 'Manji' periods. Much work remains to be done on the use, variants and the forged versions of this seal.
Clark, Timothy. "Paintings by Hokusai in the British Museum", 'Orientations'. Vol. 21, no. 8 (Aug. 1990), 37-44, fig. 8.
Tokyo-to Bijutsukan (eds), 'Daiei Hakubutsukan hizo Edo bijutsu ten'. Exh. cat., 9 Aug.-24 Sept. 1990, no. 31.
Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 3
A young man dressed in a feminine-looking blue kimono with long, flowing sleeves decorated with white cherry blossoms and a striped green pleated skirt sits on a bench in an alluring pose, with one foot resting in his lap and head inclined coyly forward. To judge by the content of the inscription, he is on an outing to admire the cherry trees in spring. The scroll seems originally to have formed a pair with another showing a 'Young Man Composing a Letter' ('Wakashu bun'an zu') in the Ujiie Collection, Kamakura; both scrolls, apparently painted for a homosexual patron, may even show the same young man.
A beautiful young man is seated on a bench, seemingly sunk in thought. He is dressed in gorgeous fabrics – multiple layers decorated with patterns of blossoming cherry. He sits somewhat awkwardly on the large bench, but the composition is balanced by the long, sharkskin-covered scabbard of his sword (wakizashi). Hokusai created other depictions of sexually alluring young men, for example in volume 9 of Hokusai’s Sketches (Hokusai manga, 1819, cats 164, 165). Determining the social status of this particular young man is difficult. He may look like a young samurai, but it would be unlikely for the warrior class to wear fashions like these in the 1800s. Alternatively, perhaps he is an onnagata, a kabuki actor specializing in female roles, young enough still to have his adolescent forelocks – and therefore likely also an iroko, or young male sex worker. But it may simply be a nostalgic
image of a beautiful young man from times long past. The inscription, a Chinese-style verse, may be tentatively translated: ‘Spring breezes and spring rains assail his lovely form / The dew is heavy on a branch or two of fleeting blossom / Like a beautiful woman, lost in thought / Brimming with tears, resting on the bench. / Poem for young Sessen by Yakko (your servant)’ (trans. Kobayashi Tadashi, Robert Campbell
and Timothy Clark).(Asano Shugo)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2005, Oct 25 - Dec 4, Tokyo National Museum, Hokusai ten (no. 469)
2017 25 May - 23 Jul, London, BM, G35, Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave
2017 6 Oct - 19 Nov, Osaka, Abeno Harukas Art Museum
2022 16 Apr-12 Jun, Tokyo, Suntory Museum of Art, Hokusai from the British Museum
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Wakashu bun'an zu 若衆文案図 (Young Man Composing a Letter)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The collection of Japanese and Chinese paintings belonging to Arthur Morrison was purchased by Sir William Gwynne-Evans, who presented it to the British Museum in 1913.
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.1451 (Japanese Painting Number)