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Loan Object
Artist: Totoya Hokkei, Japanese, 1780–1850

Suit of Armor with a Large Radish, from the series Essays in Idleness (Tsurezuregusa)

ca. 1831

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

sheet: 7 7/8 × 7 1/16 in. (20 × 18 cm)
Promised gift of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970

魚屋北渓 「徒然草」 江戸時代

This perplexing print brings together a huge white daikon radish, a suit of armor, and a long sword. The series title offers the key to decoding the imagery, which refers to a story in the famous anthology Essays in Idleness (Tsurezuregusa), written by the priest Yoshida Kenkō in about 1330. An opening paragraph from the sixty-eighth section of the text is written on the open book page in the print. It tells of a man in charge of a constabulary, akin to a police chief, who ate two seared daikon radishes daily. One day, enemy forces attacked the man at home. To his amazement, two unknown soldiers suddenly appeared and bravely fended off the enemy. With a grateful heart, he inquired about the soldiers’ identities and learned that they were the two daikon that he ate every day.

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, 2003 (on loan to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2017–present)


Joan B. Mirviss and John T. Carpenter, Jewels of Japanese Printmaking: Surimono of the Bunka-Bunsei Era 1804–1830 (Tokyo: Ota Memorial Museum of Art, 2000), 100–101, no. 51.

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), 116–18, no. 29, 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.