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Kyōsai hyakuzu, The Great Tengu Does Calligraphy, A nose-pulling Contest with an Elephant (Sho no daitengu, Zō no hanahiki)


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

The Great Tengu Does Calligraphy,

A Nose-pulling Contest with an Elephant

(Sho no daitengu, Zō no hanahiki)

from the series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

by Kawanabe Kyōsai, c. 1863-1866

IHL Cat. #466

About this Print and the Series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

The Print
What is going on here?  Kyōsai has drawn both winged bird-like and human-form long-nosed tengu (demons), several of whom are in a tug-of-war match with an elephant and others who are engaged in calligraphy.

Single-sheet print, likely first edition
Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Accession number: 11.36972
Year: 1863 (Bunkyû 3), 5th month
Artist: Kawanabe Kyôsai (Gyôsai)
Publisher:  Wakasaya Yoichi (Jakurindô)
Vertical yotsugiri (quarter ôban)

The Series
Source: Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyōsai, Oikawa Shigeru, Clark Timothy and Forrer Matthi, Tokyo Shinbun, 1996, p. 206.
This print was issued as part of the series the Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyōsai) which consists of more than 200 pictorializations of proverbs and depictions of famous subjects unrelated to proverbs. The prints were published continuously from 1863 to 1866* by the publisher Wakasaya and the works were later reprinted in album form by the publisher Ōkura Magobei (Ōkuraya) in 1881 and 1886.  The prints in this collection are likely from one of Ōkura Magobei's reprint editions, as they show evidence of having been removed from an album. 

One hundred of the proverbs depicted in Kyōsai hyakuzu were translated into French in 1885 under the title Cent Proverbes Japonais by Francis Steenackers and Ueda Tokunosuke.

This print series was very popular, enhancing Kyōsai's reputation and making a large profit for the publishers.

*1863-1866 are the most common publication dates provided for these prints, though the literature cites dates as early as 1862 for the first publication date and reprints of this series are still being made.  The prints were first issued by publisher Wakasaya Yoichi (aka Jakurindō Yoichi) as single-sheet prints, sold in ten print packages in a decorative envelope.  Ōkura Magobei (aka Yorozuya Magobei) re-published the prints in bound book/album form in the 1880s.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description  The Great Tengu Does Calligraphy, A Nose-pulling Contest with an Elephant
 書の大天狗 象の鼻引  Sho no daitengu, Zō no hanahiki 
 Artist  Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)
 Series Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyōsai)
Kyōsai 狂斎
 Seal  None
 Publication Date  likely c. 1880s (originally 1863, 5th month)
 Publisher  Ōkura Magobei - originally issued by Wakasaya Yoichi and then reprinted in book form by Ōkura Magobei
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition excellent - original album backing
 Genre  ukiyo-e; giga (comic print)
 Format  koban [Vertical yotsugiri (quarter ōban)]
 H x W Paper
 7 1/8 x 4 3/4 in. (18.1 x 12.1 cm)
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 11.36972 [different state with blue background and censor's seal dated 1863 (Bunkyû 3), 5th month]see image above
 Reference Literature