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Jeff Wells / © CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder
© CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder
Not currently on public view
Sensui fune jōhatsu [The First Time on a Boat in a Miniature Lake]
1847 - 1848
Artist & Title Notes
Title updated from "First Boat Ride on the New Pond"
Printer / Publisher / Engraver
Publisher: Enshūya Matabei
Maker's Marks / Seals
Found in Left-hand Print: Artist’s Signature (gourd shaped cartouche, left of Censor Seal 1, Censor Seal 2): Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi-ga, with artist’s Yoshi Kiri paulownia flower seal (cut off, Left-hand Print) Censor Seal 1 (next to Artist’s Signature, above Censor Seal 2): Yoshimura Gentarō (Yoshimura) Censor Seal 2 (next to Artist’s Signature, below Censor 1): Muramatsu Genroku (Muramatsu) Publisher Seal 1 (bottom-right corner): Enmata (Enshūya Matabei) Center Print: Artist’s Signature, Censor Seal 1 and 2, and Publisher’s Seal 1 appear bottom-left corner Right-hand Print: Artist’s Signature, Censor Seal 1 and 2, and Publisher’s Seal 1 appear left edge Print Title (Red Cartouche, upper-right corner): Sensui fune jōhatsu [The First Time on a Boat in a Miniature Lake]
, 14 1/2 In, 36.8300 Cm,
, 10 In, 25.4000 Cm,
Triptych of six women and a small boy feeding koi in a miniature pond. Women in kimono roister along the path of an artificial mountain in the background.
Gift of Helen Baker Jones, in memory of her father, James H. Baker, former President of CU (1892-1914), CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder
Six women ride in a boat in a pond in a daimyō’s pleasure gardens, most likely a shimoyashiki lower villa. Two move the boat by use of long poles (Right Print, Left Print). The remaining four are charmed by the sight of a small boy feeding koi. The boy’s mother is most likely the woman in the black kimono in the far-left in the left print. She, as well as the other traveler in a black kimono (Center Print) have blackened teeth, a practice of married women in the Edo period. Both women’s coiffures are plainer than that of the their companions. However, the black-clad woman in the far left revealingly has shaved eyebrows. This may be an indication that she has already had her first child.
The elaborateness and fine patterning of the women’s costumes, even their under-robes, as well as the fine quality of the objects around them, indicate that they are of high rank. They are most likely family members of the daimyō whom owns the garden. Another clue of their status lies in the sword that the woman in a light-blue kimono (Center Print) clutches in her hand: a sword. Commoners were not allowed to carry swords, which were signs of rank. She is most likely is holding it for the small boy. His partially shaved hair indicates that he ahs already gone through a coming-of-age ceremony, so his carrying a sword would be commonsensical. His central positioning in the print indicates his importance; perhaps he is the lord’s heir.
The ladies appear to have prepared a picnic, evident by the most likely lacquer bento box (Center Print) patterned with maple leaves in a river. The pattern on the box refers to a famous poem by Ariwara no Narihira, a member of the Rokkasen (Six Immortal Poets):
chihayaburu not in the ancient
kami no yo kikazu Age of the Gods was it known—
Tatsuta-gawa Tatsuta River
Kara-kurenai ni with hues of Chinese crimson
mizu kukuru no wa overspreading its waters
The crimson refers to the fallen maple leaves traveling on the river’s waters. This poem formed part of the Hyakuin Isshū (100 Poems by 100 Poets).
Edo period strolling gardens include elements found in gardens from prior eras: ponds, islands, streams, waterfalls, lakeside footpaths and hills. However, Edo-period pleasure gardens often functioned as substitutes for the scenery that the lords would have seen while traveling back and forth from Edo. Specifically, a path around the garden would lead past a series of changing landscapes featuring miniaturized recreations of meisho famous sites, called shukkei. During the Edo period, for example, several mini-Fuji were built; two, the Shin-Fuji and the Moto-Fuji were found along the Meguro River, while another was in Kumamoto. The hill in the background of the right print may be the “summit” of a mini-Fuji, but also may be simply a hill formation that could be climbed, as seven women are doing in the print.
Mark & Seal Notes:
Note that contrary to the modern pronunciation by which the print is referred, the kuzushiji phonetic to the right of the title written in kanji indicates that the title is pronounced “sensui fune norizome.” To be consistent with the British Museum, the Japanese title utilizes the modern pronunciation.
This print was published during the prohibition period (1842-1853), as indicated by the two nanushi censor seals. Nanushi, an Edo period term that also referred to the chief of a village, is the name of an individual or group of censors who examined woodblock prints during this above-stated period. From 1847 to 1853, two nanushi examined prints together. There are roughly a dozen of such seals, and are generally placed next to each other on a print.
- Leah Justin-Jinich
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