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Kyōsai hyakuzu, The Courtesan of Eguchi, A Lotus in the Mud

Kyōsai hyakuzu, Watōnai, Master of Papier Mache

Japanese Color Woodblock Print

The Courtesan of Eguchi

A Lotus in the Mud

from the series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

by Kawanabe Kyōsai, c. 1863-1866

Study of Gaslight and Silhouetted Figures

IHL Cat. #1519

About this Print and the Series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

The Print
The top portion of the print parodies the tale in which the bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Fugen), the protector of the Lotus Sutra, takes the guise of the courtesan Eguchi and offers shelter to a travelling monk.  The bottom portion of the print, showing a lotus coming out of the mouth of courtesan, parodies the saying "a lotus in the mud", meaning that although the lotus grows in the mud, it is pure, the quintessential flower for Buddhists, as is the courtesan who tries to keep her heart pure although she is in a house of prostitution.

Illustrations of these proverbs from Cent Proverbes Japonais
[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.]

Variant Printings
The popularity of these small prints led to numerous printings over the years.  A color variant state of the print is shown below.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 11.37040

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 Courtesan of Eguchi and A Lotus in the Mud
 江口ノ遊君  江口里  でい中乃蓮
 Eguchi no yūkun, Eguchi no sato, Deichū no hasu 
 Artist Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)
 Series Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyōsai)
Kyōsai 狂斎

 Seal of the Artist None
 Publication Date unknown (originally c. 1863-1866)
Ōkura Magobei 大倉孫兵衛 - originally issued by Wakasaya Yoichi 若狭屋与市 and then reprinted in book form by Ōkura Magobei (Yorozuya Magobei).
 Impression fair
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - album backing removed; soiling
 Genre ukiyo-e; giga (comic print)
 Format koban [vertical yotsugiri (quarter ōban)]
 H x W Paper 
 7 x 4 3/4 in. (17.8 x 12.1 cm)
 H x W Image 6 3/4 x 4 7/16 in. (17.1 x 11.3 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 11.37040; Ukiyoe Caricatures, University of Vienna 11032-225
 Reference Literature