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Loan Object
Artist: Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849

Bugaku Dancer in Genjōraku Role

ca.1809 (Year of the Snake)

Surimono, vertical ko-ban; polychrome woodblock print with brass and gauffrage

sheet: 7 15/16 × 5 3/8 in. (20.1 × 13.7 cm)
Gift of Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, B.A. 1970

葛飾北斎 舞楽還城楽の舞 江戸時代

A dancer, dressed in the warm reds and oranges of dances set in China and other lands to the west, holds in his hands a coiled snake made of metal and a tasseled baton. His right foot is raised and poised to stamp, part of the half-agitated, half-languorous movements that characterize much of bugaku dance, a type of courtly dance that is Chinese and Korean in origin. The title of the dance piece, mentioned in the poem, is Genjōraku (Music for a Palace Homecoming). In it, the performer finds a snake and begins to dance excitedly. Owing to the long history of the dance, which dates as far back as the tenth century or even earlier, there are a number of explanations as to its meaning. Snakes were considered delicacies, for example, so his movements may represent the joy of a group of people upon finding the reptile. By the Edo period, Genjōraku was performed as part of shrine festivals in celebration of prosperity and peace.

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

Joan Mirviss Ltd., New York; purchased by Virginia Shawan Drosten and Patrick Kenadjian, Koenigstein im Taunus, Germany; gifted in 2020 to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


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), 122–23, no. 31, 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.