Asian Art
Artist: Yashima Gakutei, Japanese, ca. 1786–1868

Scholar’s Alcove with a Portrait of Hitomaro

1819 (Year of the Hare)

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

sheet: 8 1/4 × 7 3/16 in. (21 × 18.2 cm)
Gift of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970

八島岳亭 人麻呂像のある書斎風景 江戸時代

Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, portrayed in the black ink rubbing hung at right in the scholar’s alcove seen in this print, is considered a saint among poets in Japan, and the scene most likely depicts a poetry party. Hitomaro’s poems express the feelings of an active participant in life rather than those of a detached observer. His use of ordinary words often creates surprising effects. The three poems on this print pay homage to one of his poems, which reads: “Dimly, dimly, in the morning mist of Akashi Bay, I think of a boat going island-hidden.” In this poem, one senses Hitomaro’s sadness in seeing someone off in a boat that disappears behind an island in the morning fog. All three poems here start with “Seen dimly, dimly,” repeating Hitomaro’s wording, but are then shaped to be appropriate for New Year’s themes.

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, 1979 (on loan to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2017–2019); given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2019


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), 108–9, no. 59.

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.