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Boar from Takeuchi Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals

Sheep from Takeuchi Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Boar from the series

Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals

(Seiho gahaku hitsu jūnishi jō)

by Takeuchi Seihō, originally 1900-1915

Sheep from Takeuchi Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals
IHL Cat. #867

About This Print and Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals

This print, picturing a sleeping boar, the twelfth sign of the zodiac, is a later printing, likely c. 1930s-1940s, of the print contained in the earlier, 1900-1915, bound folding album Seiho's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals, published by Unsōdō Publishing.  

Each of the prints is essentially a woodblock facsimile of what must have been an original watercolor created by Seihō, a painter rather than a print maker. In describing an earlier book of prints by the artist, also published by Unsōdō Publishing, Jack Hillier notes that the Meiji print-makers responded to the challenge of reproducing Seihō's watercolors, with "marvelous interpretive skills" and goes on to say “There is, in truth, a complete abnegation of the medium qua woodcut; its own virtues of bold line and flat wash are sacrificed in the cause of a facsimile rendering of a water-colour: this was a fundamental change in technique which led to incredible feats of reproduction…”1

Dates of Publication
It is unclear when the twelve prints were originally issued.  Japan's National Diet Library lists their copy of the "bound book" (和装) as being published in 1900.  The British Museum lists their copy as published circa 1900.  The Rijksmuseum lists their copy as being published between 1900 and 1915.2  Several rare booksellers list their copies as being published between 1910 and 1912.  Unfortunately, neither the museums or the booksellers show the colophon from the book, which would allow confirmation of the date of publishing.

In addition to the prints that were bound into folding albums, most, if not all, of the designs were issued at a later date (the Art Institute of Chicago suggests c. 1930s/1940s) as single sheets. These single sheet prints have a margin around them which is not present in the prints bound into a album and they do not have a centerfold, a result of these large dai-oban size prints being folded over when bound into an album. Some, if not all, of the designs were printed in 1903 by Unsōdō, with some modifications to the background (see this collection's IHL Cat. 1576 Tiger as an example).  These 1903 prints were likely also issued as part of a folding album, as the examples I've seen all have a horizontal centerfold. The 1903 prints do carry a date of publication in their margin along with the publisher's copyright under the name of Yamada Naozaburō 山田直三郎, the founder of Unsōdō Publishing.  In addition, some, but not all of the twelve prints were re-issued (post-war II, I believe) by Unsōdō in shikishiban (square format).

1 The Art of the Japanese Book, Jack Hillier, Sothebys Publications, London, 1987, p. 991.
2 The Rijksmuseum provides the following description of their copy of the album: "Light brown cover with mid-top white title strip with gold-colored splashes; 13 sheets: first page, title page; 12 prints with the animals of the zodiac: rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, swine; Last page, colophon. In green cover with white title strip." 

The Other Eleven Calendrical Animals - Rat, Ox, Tiger, Hare, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat/Sheep, Monkey, Cock, Dog, Pig/Boar

cover to the earlier portfolio
(Rijksmuseum RP-P-1993-138)

Rat, from a folding album
Ox, a later printing

Tiger, from a folding album

Hare, from a folding album
Dragon, from a folding album
Snake, from a folding album

Horse, from a folding album

 Sheep, a later printing

Monkey, a later printing 

Cock, a later printing

Dog, from a folding album
note: image is cropped

Boar, from a folding album

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #867
 Title  untitled print depicting a sleeping boar
 Series  Seihō's Album of the Twelve Calendrical Animals [also seen translated as Seihō’s Album of the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac]
 セイホウ ガハク ヒツ ジュウニシジョウ Seihō gahaku hitsu jūnishi jō
 Takeuchi Seihō (1864-1942)
 Seal  Seihō as shown above
 Publication Date  originally 1910-1915.  This printing likely c. 1930s-1940s.
 Edition  later edition by original publisher
 Publisher  Unsōdō Publishing
 Printer  unknown
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent - some light handling creases
 Genre  nihonga (also classed as e-hon, as the series prints exist as bound volumes)
 Format  dai oban
 H x W Paper  15 1/2 x 20 3/4 in. (39.4 x 52.7 cm )
 H x W Image
 13 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. (34.3 x 49.5 cm)
 Collections This Print  Los Angeles County Museum of Art M.73.37.388; The British Museum has an earlier album of the 12 prints in their collection 1991,1112,0.52 as does the Rijksmuseum RP-P-1993-138 and the National Diet Library.
 Reference Literature