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Asian Art
Artist: Totoya Hokkei, Japanese, 1780–1850


ca. 1818

Surimono, shikishiban; polychrome woodblock print with silver pigment, gauffrage, and bokashi (fading technique)

sheet: 8 3/16 × 7 1/4 in. (20.8 × 18.4 cm)
Gift of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970

魚屋北渓 囚われ金魚 江戸時代

During the Edo period, the term giyaman, derived from the Portuguese diamante, was coined for transparent glass, which by the early nineteenth century had captivated the Japanese. Transparent glass offered a new perception of seeing and being seen. This print, of a fish in a clear glass bowl, is one of the most enigmatic surimono in this installation. The line between what is real and what is unreal is thin. Is the goldfish alive in the bowl, or is it painted on one? The imagery may speak to the times: during this period, many Japanese intellectuals, including kyōka poets, felt “bottled up” or confined, and they frequented pleasure districts, seeking release from their frustrations and looking for opportunities to broaden their circle of friends, engage in conversation, and even flout shogunal edicts. Courtesans, in particular, were like fish trapped in a bowl, on display with no escape.

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, 2015 (on loan to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2017–2020); given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 2020


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), 90–92, no. 20, 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.