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

Sei Shōnagon, from the series Great Women No. 3 (Daijo sanban)

ca. 1828

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

sheet: 7 13/16 × 7 1/16 in. (19.8 × 18 cm)
Promised gift of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970

魚屋北渓「大女三番 清少納言」 江戸時代

Totoya Hokkei, one of the best students of the prominent Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai, concentrated on producing surimono like this one rather than popular, mass-produced ukiyo-e; he was active in Edo throughout his life. Sei Shōnagon (ca. 966–ca. 1025), shown here, is best known for her essay, The Pillow Book (Makura no sōshi), written while she was serving as a lady-in-attendance to Empress Consort Fujiwara no Teishi. In it, Sei expressed private thoughts not meant for the public eye, and its straightforwardness has caused some readers discomfort. This image of Sei rolling up a bamboo blind references an incident in which she answered the question, “How should we view the snow on Mount Xianglu?,” posed by Teishi. One of the well-known lines of a Chinese poem by Bai Juyi, which the empress knew by heart, says that it should be viewed by rolling up the blind. Sei immediately rolled up the blind to enjoy the snow, showing her knowledge.

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

Collection of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian.


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), 90–91, no. 43.

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), 113–15, no. 28, 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.