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Loan Object
Artist: Aoigaoka Keisei, Japanese, active ca. 1818–35

Seahorses before a Rising New Year’s Sun

1820 or 1832 (both Year of the Dragon)

Surimono, shikishi-ban; polychrome woodblock print with silver pigment and gauffrage

sheet: 8 1/4 × 7 5/16 in. (21 × 18.5 cm)
Promised gift of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970

葵岡渓栖 新年の日の出 江戸時代

While this surimono, with its charming imagery of two seahorses drifting on rolling waves, appears to be a quintessential image of a peaceful New Year’s Day in the Year of the Dragon, the interplay between the poems and imagery suggests it may have political overtones, rare for surimono. Indeed, close examination reveals almost subversive meanings camouflaged in the archetypal imagery. Both the lines in the waves and the silvery spray are embossed in gauffrage, a time-consuming technique, which underscores their significance in the print. Both poems allude to the imperial reign (miyo) by using an expression that can be translated as “this becalmed reign.” The first poem mentions that the spring sunlight is “drawing out” the “ripples” (literally “creases”); this may imply that the poets seek to promote the emperor, the one who could “straighten out the creases” but who is not in a strong enough position to do so.

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

Joan B. Mirviss (dealer), New York; sold to Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, Koenigstein im Taunus, Germany, 2005 (on loan to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2017—present)


Sadako Ohki and Adam Haliburton, The Private World of Surimono: Japanese Prints from the Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian Collection (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2020), 137–39, no. 36, ill.

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.