Hanga Treasure Chest: Print #5

One of the real pleasures in my job is uncovering buried treasures and bringing them to peoples' attention. This print is a wonderful example; have you ever seen it, or heard of its designer? I would wager neither ... The number of prints that were produced back in the Edo era is so vast and varied that it is foolish to keep reproducing the same ukiyo-e 'standards' over and over again.

It is one print from a set depicting three of the fukujin (we usually see seven of these 'lucky gods' ...), and shows the goddess known as Benzaiten. Various reference sources I checked couldn't agree on exactly what it is she is supposed to be the goddess of, so I'll choose the one that states: Goddess of Fine Arts and Music, which suits me just fine!

The design dates from the 1760's~70's, and was created by Tomikawa Fusanobu. He was not known for single sheet prints like this one as much as for his work in books - writing and illustrating nearly 300 novels during his career.

The original print dates from the era before colour printing had become widespread, so I have taken the liberty of adding colour to the image. But I certainly wouldn't take any liberties with the outlines - the lines of her lute and kimono are created with calligraphy reading Biwa Hoshi Benzaiten (Benzaiten, as a Lute-Playing Priestess).

I knew some time ago that this design would be included in the Treasure Chest this year, but exactly which position in the set it would take was of course decided by those branches over her head. I'm sure that many of you are displaying the box in your genkan (entranceway) this year, so I'm really trying to maintain a good seasonal feel to the sequence of prints, yet without making it just a collection of flower pictures. After the cherry blossoms have fallen, it will be the turn of the ... but no, you'll have to wait and see!

I hope you are enjoying the journey so far ...


Monday, March 28, 2005