- Museum number
- Object: Ehon waka Ebisu 絵本龢謌夷 (The Young God Ebisu, an Illustrated Book)
Illustrated book, folding album, colour woodblock print. One volume. Sixty poems celebrating coming of spring by sixty poets on five double pages, and five illustrations by Utamaro of New Year scenes. Covers: Original, dark blue, painted with horizontal cloud bands, grasses and pine shoots. Title slips: (missing, originally pasted in top left corner of cover). Contents: 12 leaves: 1 double-page preface, 10 double pages alternating illustrations and poems, 1 double-page postscript and colophon. Illustrations: New Year at court (Kyutei no shogatsu); New Year in a samurai mansion (Buke no shogatsu); Delivering New Year gifts in the snow (Setchu no nenrei); New Year street-performers (Dai-kagura); Performance by a trained monkey (Saru-hiki).With brass dust, gold and silver leaf and gauffrage. Inscribed and signed.
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- Production date
- 1789 (New Year)
Height: 25.80 centimetres
Width: 18.90 centimetres
- Curator's comments
A punning meaning of the title is 'Poems in comic style' (i.e. kyoka). The five illustrations by Utamaro show New Year scenes enjoyed by different classes. First comes celebrations at the Imperial court, done in the archaic Tosa style. (Label copy, TTC, 1999.)
Hillier and Smith 1980
This is one of a series of New Year albums, each of five colour prints, to which 'Kyogetsubo' and 'Ginsekai' (1979, 0305, 0154 and 1979, 0305, 0526) also belong. The title is not easily translatable because of a play, or plays, on words: 'Ebisu' is the popular god most associated with the New Year, but 'waka' can be 'young' or 'thirty-one syllable poem'. Broadly, the meaning can be taken as 'An Anthology of New Year Verse'. The contents are varied, with two prints simulating the courtly 'Tosa' style, a third, Moronobu period genre, the remaining two being contemporary 'Ukiyoe'.
Binyon, Laurence, and Sexton, J J O'Brien, 'Japanese Colour Prints' (new edn.), London, 1963, pp. 218-19.
Brown, Louise Norton, 'Block Printing and Book Illustration in Japan', London and New York, 1924, p. 169.
Keyes, Roger, 'Envisioning the Past: Utamaro's Album "Waka Ebisu" in "A Sheaf of Japanese Papers"', The Hague, 1979.
Odaka, Sennosuke, "Umaro ehon ko" (A Study of Utamaro's Illustrated Books), 'Ukiyoye no kenkyu', 20, vol. 5, Tokyo, 1928, no. 1.
Asano and Clark 1995
Compiled by Yadoya no Meshimori. The title can mean both "the young god Ebisu" and "poems in comic style". The first of these meanings refers to a lucky charm in the form of an image of a statue of the lucky god Ebisu printed on a piece of paper, that was sold by itinerant vendors at the New Year. The second meaning refers to poems composed in the comic style of Edo, that is to say ‘kyoka’. Regrettably, the British Museum copy is lacking both the original title slip, which reads "Waka Ebisu — complete" (Waka Ebisu, zen) and the printed date in the colophon which reads "Beginning of spring in the year of the cock" (Tori no hatsu haru). From this the date of publication is known to be the New Year, 1789.
Otaka, Sennosuke 尾高鮮之助, "Utamaro no kibyoshi ko, 1-3" 『歌麿の黄表紙考（一）~（三）』, ‘Mizue’「みづゑ」, pp. 275-277, 1928, 5-6.
‘Kokusho somokuroku 国書総目録’, vol. 1, Iwanami Shoten, Tokyo, 1963-72, 504.
Keyes, Roger, "Envisioning the Past: Utamaro's Album Waka Ebisu", in ‘A Sheaf of Japanese Papers’, ed. Matthi Forrer, The Hague, Society for Japanese Arts and Crafts, 1979.
Hillier, Jack, ‘The Art of the Japanese Book’, Sotheby's Publications, London, 1987, 420, 423-5.
Smith, Lawrence, ‘Ukiyoe: Images of Unknown Japan’, BMP, London, 1988, book no. 21.
‘Hizo Ukiyo-e taikan’「秘蔵浮世絵大観」, gen. ed. Narazaki, Muneshige, vol. 3, Kodansha, Tokyo, 1987-90, 247-251.
Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin.
Chester Beatty Library and Gallery of Oriental Art, Dublin.
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge (Mass.).
Keio Gijuku 慶応義塾, Tokyo.
National Diet Library 国立国会図書館.
Gerhard Pulverer Collection.
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 太田記念美術館, Tokyo.
Toyo Bunko 東洋文庫, Tokyo.
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
[Main text translated in Japanese below / 以下上記本文日本語訳]
- Not on display
- Associated events
- Associated Event: New Year
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Previous owner/ex-collection number: JH.153 (Hillier no.)