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Crane and Lotus, Ofuku, Coiffeur, Holes in Their Abdomen from the series Kyōsai Manga


Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Crane and Lotus, Ofuku, Coiffeur,

Holes in Their Abdomen

from the series Kyōsai Manga

by Kawanabe Kyōsai, 1864

Apricot in the Night, Nap, Dance of the Three-legged Kettle from the series Kyōsai Manga
IHL Cat. #1525

About This Print

The three multi-color panels of the print are titled in English in the book Comic GeniusKawanabe Kyōsai as Ofuku1, Holes in Their Abdomen and Coiffeur, but the upper right panel, depicting a crane and lotus, and bearing the kanji characters 連封一品, is not translated for us.  Initially, I was not able to come up with a reasonable translation for these characters, but subsequently I ran into a Bonhams' auction listing for a green glass snuff bottle with an image of a crane and a lotus, with the following note:
The pairing of a crane (yipin niao) and lotus (lianhua) is a rebus for lianfeng yipin (may you continuously be promoted to the first rank). The crane symbolizes first rank [and the lotus is a pun for the word continuous, lian.2] For further discussion, see Bartholomew, Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art (2006), p 108.3 

A similar image with the same characters, shown below next to the panel from this print, appears in a an earlier book of woodcuts.

The Series Kyōsai Manga

Source: Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyōsai, Oikawa Shigeru, Clark Timothy and Forrer Matthi, Tokyo Shinbun, 1996, p. 32-33, 220-225.

This series, which used "legitimate Kano school subjects as their themes" depicted in comic situations, made Kyōsai popular as an ukiyo-e artist.  Oikawa Shigeru points out that what made Kyōsai stand out from other period artists who used Kano school themes, such as Hokusai, was his "ability to parody the actual Kano school works" in  a "fresh new style" making him "the popular artist for comic prints."

At least ten prints are known to comprise this series and each single sheet includes several different subjects [harimaze-e] with each sheet including at least one comic scene.  "This series continued to be printed in the middle of the Meiji period, and several different types of editions exist.  At the time, these harimaze prints were cut into individual scenes and the small pieces were used to repair the holes in paper sliding doors and screens.  Kyōsai’s humorous scenes were thus enjoyed in the everyday lives of the Japanese people."

1 Ofuku, also known as Ama, Otafuku, Udzume, Uzume and Ama-no-Uzume is the goddess of mirth who at the time of creation brought the sun goddess Amaterasu from her dark cave, bringing sunshine to the world, by her boisterous dance.
2 This explanation of the lotus came from a listing of another object depicting a crane and lotus offered by the auction house Marchant.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog
 Title or Description Egret, Ofuku, Coiffeur, Holes in Their Abdomen   
 連封一品, お福, 髪結い, 胴に穴あき
 Series Kyōsai Manga 狂斎漫画 [Cartoons by Kyōsai]
 Artist Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831-1889)
unread signature
top left panel
Kyōsai (狂斎) with Kyō and sai seals of the artist
bottom left panel
Seisei jin (猩々人) with
Kyō and sai seals of the artist
bottom right panel

 Seal of the Artist  as shown above
 Publication Date
1864 (Bunkyū 4), 7th month [date and aratame censor seal 子七改]
Tsujiokaya Bunsuke (辻文版 printed on top margin to left of series title.)
[Marks: 02-064; publisher ref. 548]
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition excellent - slight wrinkling; unbacked
 Genre ukiyo-e, harimaze-e, giga-e
 Format vertical oban
 H x W Paper 
 14 5/8 x 9 7/8 in. (37.1 x 25.1 cm) 
 H x W Image
 14 x 8 15/16 in. (35.6 x 22.7 cm) note: measurement includes the kanji information at the top of the print
 Collections This Print Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum
 Reference Literature 
 Comic Genius: Kawanabe Kyōsai, Oikawa Shigeru, Timothy Clark and Matthi Forrer, Tokyo Shinbun, 1996, p. 225, fig. 128.
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