Asian Art
Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige, Japanese, 1797–1858

Red-Flanked Bluetail on a Cherry Branch

ca. 1830

Ukiyo-e: polychrome woodblock print

sheet: 14 3/4 × 4 7/8 in. (37.5 × 12.4 cm)
Frances Gaylord Smith Collection

歌川広重 桜にルリビタキ 浮世絵錦絵 江戸時代

Although it is called a bush warbler in the kyōka (crazy poem) at top right, this bird closely resembles a red-flanked bluetail, a migratory species that spends the warmer months of the year in northeast Asia. Here, Utagawa Hiroshige depicts a male bluetail on a cherry branch, singing melodies to attract females during the mating season. Such scenes of chirping birds on delicately rendered tree branches have a long history in East Asian painting, but Hiroshige transposed the subject to the popular and accessible medium of print. The kyōka reads, “Japanese bush warbler / two gallons and a half [paid with rice] / thicket ground tax.” In 1745 a new tax was imposed on bamboo thickets; while the chirping of the bird signaled the advent of spring, it also announced the coming of the taxman.

On view
Edo period (1615–1868)
Works on Paper - Prints

Charles Jacquin collection; sale Walpole Galleries, Jan. 22, 1921; sold to Frances Gaylord Smith (Mrs. George T. Smith), Jan. 22, 1921; by descent to nephew Gaylord Donnelley (1910–1992) and Dorothy Ranney Donnelley (1910–2002), by 1969; loaned in 1969, and given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1972

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.