Report: The Whole Nation Living in Perfect Contentment (Empress, Empress Dowager and Court Ladies in Waiting Sewing Pledgets)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

Report: The Whole Nation Living in Perfect Contentment (Empress, Empress Dowager and Court Ladies in Waiting Sewing Pledgets)

by Utagawa Fusatane, 1877



IHL Cat. #1105

About This Print

This scene depicts the Empress [Empress Shōken], Empress Dowager and their court ladies assembling pledgets (large bandages) for the Imperial troops fighting rebel samurai during the Satsuma Rebellion [also known as the Seinan War and Kagoshima War (February 1877 - September 1877)].  While this print was issued in June of 1877 when the rebels were on the run and close to defeat, the scene it depicts is set towards the end of February when the rebels were laying siege to Kumamoto Castle and its government defenders were experiencing heavy casualties.  The sewing of the pledgets was one of the many charitable tasks that the Empress engaged in and was noted in an 1893 book on the historical role of Japanese women prepared for the World's Columbian Exposition, as follows:

In all these [women led educational and charitable institutions] Her Imperial Majesty, our wise and most gracious Empress, takes the lead.  There has not been a notable stand taken by women that has been for the public benefit but that the Empress in the kindness of her heart has not either directly or indirectly given it her patronage. 

When the Kagoshima war broke out in 1877, she sent an immense quantity of lint pledgets of her own preparation for the use of wounded soldiers.1  

The scroll in the upper right of the triptych provides details of the scene and describes the fierce battle and heavy casualties occurring in Kagoshima and the charity and mercy displayed by the Empress and Empress Dowager.

click on image to enlarge
1 Japan Women [The Japanese Woman's Commission for the World's Columbian Exposition], multiple unnamed Japanese women authors, A.C. McClurg & Co., 1893, p 150.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 #1105
 Title or DescriptionThe Whole Nation Living in Perfect Contentment
傳聞萬民鼓腹 (denbun banmin kufuku)
 Artist Utagawa Fusatane (active 1854-1888)
 Signature
ōju Ōsai Fusatani hitsu 應需 櫻斎房種筆
 Seal not sealed
 Publication Date
Meiji 10th year, 6th month, 4th day
June 4, 1877

 Publisher
Fukuda Kumajirō [Marks: pub. ref. 071; seal not shown]

板元 [publisher] 福田 熊治郎 [Fukuda Kumajirō] followed by address
画工 [painter] 村井 静馬 [Murai Seima, Fusatane's original name] followed by address
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - light overall toning; minor soiling; wormholes on right sheet repaired from back
 Genre ukiyo-e
 Miscellaneous
 Format oban triptych
 H x W Paper 
 14 3/8 x 9 3/4 in. (36.5 x 24.8 cm) (each sheet)
 H x W Image 
 Literature 

 Collections This Print
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 2000.17a-c
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