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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
IHL Cat. #2141

About This Print

Two printings of Rat and Radish, 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 Daikokuyaprints owned by the collector and dealer Robert O. Muller.  A later edition of this print, with blackborders and ample white margins, also exists [see below]. It was probably published by Kawaguchi.

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

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

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

There are touches of gofun,an opaque white pigment, on the radish. [This collection's print IHL Cat. #2141 has those "touches of gofun" but IHL Cat. #1516 does not have the gofun highlights as mentioned here (and as are present on the British Museum's copy of this print shown below) suggesting 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 Daikokuya, 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; #2141
 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 (IHL Cat. #1516 left; IHL Cat. #2141 right)
  Toshihisa 年久 (see above)
 Date c. 1900
 Publisher Matsuki Heikichi (Daikokuya Heikichi 大黒屋平) [Marks: pub. ref. 029]
 Impression IHL Cat. #1516: excellent
 IHL Cat. #2141: excellent
 Colors IHL Cat. #1516: excellent
 IHL Cat. #2141: excellent
 Condition IHL Cat. #1516: excellent - paper imperfection top center
 IHL Cat. #2141: good - mounted to original (as issued) backing paper; minor soiling; diagonal and horizontal bend in paper upper right corner
 Genre ukiyo-e; kacho-e
 Format shikishiban
 H x W Paper IHL Cat. #1516: 9 7/16 x 9 7/8 in. (24 x 25.1 cm)
 IHL Cat. #2141: 9 7/16 x 9 1/2 in. (24 x 24.1 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.