Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国) (artist 1786 – 01/12/1865)

Poem by Emperor Kōkō (Kōkō Tennō - 光孝天皇), No. 15 (十五), from the series A Pictorial Commentary on One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets (Hyakunin isshu eshō - 百人一首絵抄)  


1842 – 1846
9.9 in x 14.57 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Kunisada aratame nidai Toyokuni ga
Artist's seal: toshidama (in red)
Publisher: Sanoya Kihei (Marks 446 - seal 25-210)
Censor's seal: Fu
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
British Museum
Tokyo Metropolitan Library
National Diet Library
Metropolitan Museum of Art

The fifteenth poem in the collection of 100 poems is by the Emperor Kōkō.


Kimi ga tame
Haru no no ni idete
Wakana tsumu
Waga koromode ni
Yuki wa furi tsutsu

It is for your sake
That I walk the fields in spring,
Gathering green herbs,
While my garment's hanging sleeves
Are speckled with falling snow.

Kōkō Tennō, the man who wrote this poem, was made the 58th emperor as the result of Yōzei Tennō, his predecessor, being overthrown by Fujiwara Mototsune. Mototsune was rewarded for this deed. Kōkō ruled only three years before he died - 885-887. Little else is known about him - at least in English.

One of the most unusual things to note about this print is the use of snowflakes to decorate this woman's outer robe. This motif rarely appears in Japanese prints in this form. There are many prints that include a standardized snowflake as the title cartouche and many others where the snow is falling, but almost never where one flake can be distinguished from another as seen here.

It is curious and speaks to the keen observations of the artist, that the first snowflakes ever photographed to be studied in perpetuity were captured by the lens of Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmer, in 1885, about forty years after the production of this print by Kunisada. (JSV)


The nanushi censor's seal, Fu, short for Fukatsu Ihei (普勝伊兵衛), appeared on prints between VI/1842-XI/46. There is at least one other print in the Lyon Collection with this seal. It too shows a beautiful woman carrying an umbrella in a snow storm. (See #756)

Andreas Marks defines the term nanushi: "With the enactment of the Tenpō reforms in 1842, the censorship system was changed and from the sixth month on, nanushi 名主, minor government officials, were selected to carry out the approval by applying their name seal to prints."
Sanoya Kihei (佐野屋喜兵衛) (publisher)
beautiful women (bijin-ga - 美人画) (genre)