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Rat and Radish


 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Rat and Radish

by Tsukioka Kōgyo, c. 1900

Boats at Night

IHL Cat. #1516

About This Print

One of about fifty kacho-e (bird and flower prints) in the shikishiban (almost square) format designed by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927) for the publisher Daikokuya (Matsuki Heikichi) around the turn of last century.  

Source: The Beauty of Silence: Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927), Robert Schaap & J. Thomas Rimer, Hotei Publishing, 2010, p. 148.

This design is No. 68 in the sample books of Daikokuya prints owned by the collector and dealer Robert O. Muller.  A later edition of this print, with black borders and ample white margins, also exists [see below].  It was probably published by Kawaguchi.

Another edition of this design, omitting part of the image on the right, is signed and sealed by Watanabe Seitei (1851-1918) [see below].  This is a pirated edition by the Shima Art Company.

A small rat (nezumi – the Japanese word for rat or mouse) nibbles on a bright red radish; two yellow berries are seen to the left.

According to tradition, the rat heads the animals of the zodiac because it was the first creature to arrive at the deathbed of the historical Buddha.  While this rodent is little appreciated in Western culture, it is highly respected in the Eastern tradition and is a symbol of prosperity.  As a fuku nezumi (“lucky rat or mouse”), it is pictured as an attendant to Daikoku, one of the “Seven Gods of Good Fortune” (Shichifukujin).

There are touches of gofun, an opaque white pigment, on the radish. [As this collection's version does not have the gofun highlights as mentioned here and as present on the British Museum's copy of this print (see below) there must have been a "deluxe" edition made.]

Editions and a Variation

Edition with black border published by Kawaguchi
"pirated" edition by Shima Art Company bearing the signature of Watanabe Seitei
"deluxe" printing with gofun on radish
British Museum 1946,0209,0.125

click on any image to enlarge

Kōgyo's Shikishiban Kacho-e 

Source: The Beauty of Silence: Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927), Robert Schaap & J. Thomas Rimer, Hotei Publishing, 2010, p. 40.

Kōgyo’s oeuvre also comprises some fifty shikishiban prints. While these works include some landscape compositions, most are illustrations of the natural world, a genre referred to asKachō-e (literally, “flower and bird pictures”). Kōgyo was one of a number of artists who designed such (export) shikishiban. His teacher Gekkō [Ogata Gekkō (1859-1920)], the lacquer artist Shibata Zeshin (1807-91), Ohara Koson [Ohara Koson (1877-1945)], and Yamamoto Shōun can all be counted among the artists enlisted by the Daikokuya to design these compositions. 

Many of these squarish shikishiban prints are thought to have been issued by the Daikokiya, who continually explored new avenues for print subjects and types primarily destined for the export market in the late 19th and early 20th century (a number carry a seal verso reading ‘Made in Japan,” which was required for the export to the United States). 

…Kōgyo’s imaginative designs for this set reflect his keen interest in flower and bird topics. His prints frequently display the same delicate treatment that is so characteristic of the work of Seitei [Watanabe Seitei, 1851-1918].  It must be pointed out, however, that Seitei’s depictions of the natural world seem more realistic. 

Reprints of work from this group are not uncommon. These later editions can be recognized by the black contour lines around the image and the large white borders. They are printed on very thin paper, but they also appear in an edition that is printed on heavier, denser quality paper that one would expect to find with surimono.  

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #1516
 Title (Description)
 untitled (Rat and Radish; also seen titled as "Mouse and Carrot" and "Mouse and Radish")
 Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927)
Kōgyo 耕漁 with Toshihisa seal
  Toshihisa 年久 (see above)
 Date  c. 1900
 Publisher  Matsuki Heikichi (Daikokuya Heikichi 大黒屋平) [Marks: pub. ref. 029]
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent - paper imperfection top center
 Genre  ukiyo-e; kacho-e
 Format  shikishiban
 H x W Paper  9 7/16 x 9 7/8 in. (24 x 25.1 cm)
 Collections This Print  British Museum 1946,0209,0.125
 Reference Literature  The Beauty of Silence: Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927), Robert Schaap & J. Thomas Rimer, Hotei Publishing, 2010, cat. 102, p. 148.