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Kyōsai hyakuzu, A Sweet Pastry into the Open Mouth. Love Makes No Distinction Between High and Low: The Famous Holy Man of Shigadera


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

A Sweet Pastry into the Open Mouth.

Love Makes No Distinction Between High and Low: The Famous Holy Man of Shigadera

from the series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

by Kawanabe Kyōsai, c. 1863-1866

Study of Gaslight and Silhouetted Figures

IHL Cat. #1387

About this Print and the Series Kyōsai Hyakuzu

The Print
Kyōsai pairs the proverb "A sweet pastry [bean-jam rice cake] into an open mouth," (meaning, "An unexpected windfall.")1 with the ancient story of the infatuation of the holy man of Shiga Temple for the Empress Somedomo. 

In the bottom scene of the print we see the holy man grasping the hand of the empress while several onlookers giggle.  In the story the holy man from the Shiga temple grasped the hands of the Empress Mother (Empress Somedomo) and recited the poem on the Jeweled Broom to liberate himself from obsessive thoughts [and worldly desires.]2 In the end he was unable to endure such passion and turned into a blue ghost.3

How the two  scenes interrelate, I'll leave to your imagination.
1 Japanese Proverbs and Sayings, Daniel Crump Buchanan, University of Oaklahoma Press,1987, p. 255.
2 The Poetics of Motoori Norinaga: A Hermeneutical Journey, Norinaga Motoori, Michael F. Marra, University of Hawai'i Press, 2007, p. 200.
3 The Red Thread: Buddhist Approaches to Sexuality, Bernard Faure, Princeton University Press, 2001, p. 164.

Variant Printings

The popularity of these small prints led to numerous printings over the years.  Two color variant states of the print are shown below.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
website of Yamada-shoten

The Series
Source: Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyōsai, Oikawa Shigeru, Clark Timothy and Forrer Matthi, Tokyo Shinbun, 1996, p. 206.
This print was issued as part of the series the Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyōsai) which consists of more than 200 pictorializations of proverbs and depictions of famous subjects unrelated to proverbs. The prints were published continuously from 1863 to 1866* by the publisher Wakasaya and the works were later reprinted in album form by the publisher Ōkura Magobei (Ōkuraya) in 1881 and 1886.  The prints in this collection are likely from one of Ōkura Magobei's reprint editions, as they show evidence of having been removed from an album. 

One hundred of the proverbs depicted in Kyōsai hyakuzu were translated into French in 1885 under the title Cent Proverbes Japonais by Francis Steenackers and Ueda Tokunosuke.

This print series was very popular, enhancing Kyōsai's reputation and making a large profit for the publishers.

*1863-1866 are the most common publication dates provided for these prints, though the literature cites dates as early as 1862 for the first publication date and reprints of this series are still being made.  The prints were first issued by publisher Wakasaya Yoichi (aka Jakurindō Yoichi) as single-sheet prints, sold in ten print packages in a decorative envelope.  Ōkura Magobei (aka Yorozuya Magobei) re-published the prints in bound book/album form in the 1880s.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description
 A Sweet Pastry into the Open Mouth.  Love Makes No Distinction Between High and Low: The Famous Holy Man of Shiga Temple
 あいた口へおはき   恋に上下のへだてなし   志賀寺之名高キ上人
 Aito kuchi e ohagi.  Koi ni ueshita no hedate nashi, Shigadera no nadakaki shōnin
 Artist Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)
 Series Kyōsai hyakuzu 狂斎百図 (One Hundred Pictures by Kyōsai)
Kyōsai gi 狂斎戯

 Seal of the Artist None
 Publication Date unknown (originally c. 1863-1866)
While bearing the seal of the publisher Wakasaya Yoichi 若狭屋与市 (a partial seal in left column reading Jakurindō 若林堂), this print was more likely issued by Ōkura Magobei 大倉孫兵衛 as part of a bound book of the series' prints.)

(Seal is similar to Marks: ref. 12-031; pub. ref. 573)

 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - album backing; soiling
 Genre ukiyo-e; giga (comic print)
 Format koban [vertical yotsugiri (quarter ōban)]
 H x W Paper 
 7 1/16 x 4 3/4 in. (17.9 x 12.1 cm)
 H x W Image 6 3/4 x 4 7/16 in. (17.1 x 11.3 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 11.37001; Ukiyoe Caricatures, University of Vienna 11032-54
 Reference Literature