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Asian Art
Artist: Katsushika Hokusai, Japanese, 1760–1849

Beneath the Waves off Kanagawa, also known as The Great Wave, from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji

ca. 1831

Oban-size ukiyo-e; polychrome woodblock print; blue key block

sheet: 9 5/8 × 14 5/8 in. (24.5 × 37.2 cm)
Frances Gaylord Smith Collection
1973.42.39

葛飾北斎 「富嶽三十六景 神奈川沖浪裏」 浮世絵錦絵 江戸時代

At first glance, snow-capped Mount Fuji looks calm in the background of this print, far from the boats and towering waves. But the mountain is slightly obscured by a boat whose sharp, sickle-like tip threatens to lop off Mount Fuji’s peak, and recent scholarship suggests that this print has political implications. Mount Fuji, a symbol of Japan, is menaced by boats and overpowering waves, both of which may imply a fear of foreign powers encroaching on Japanese shores. Indeed, in 1853, roughly twenty years after this print was made, the American commodore Matthew Perry led a United States Navy fleet into the Tokyo harbor and forcibly opened Japan to trade.

Geography: 
Japan
Culture: 
Japanese
Period: 
Edo period (1615–1868)
Classification: 
Works on Paper - Prints
Provenance: 

Frances Gaylord Smith (Mrs. George T. Smith) Collection; by descent to nephew Gaylord Donnelley (1910–1992) and Dorothy Ranney Donnelley (1910–2002); loaned in 1969, and given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1973

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.