The surimono was a popular format for 19th-century kacho-e. It spoke to an increasingly sophisticated clientele, that had the money to spend on private commissions completed with luxury materials like gold and silver. Surimono were generally small format images commissioned in honor of celebrations like the New Year, which combined illustrations with printed poetry and text. Shinsai’s surimono combines four of the most important symbols of perseverance and good fortune—the pine, bamboo, plum blossom, and the crane—embellished with metallic pigment, making this image a very auspicious gift. Poems by Hasansha Kaneichi and Kokinsha Eiga.
About the artist
An ukiyo-e painter and printmaker, Ryuryukyo Shinsai lived in Edo. He studied with Tawaraya Sori before becoming the student of Hokusai. Shinsai received his name from Hokusai in 1800 and soon adopted the go, or artist name, “Ryuryukyo,” an old go used by his former teacher Sori. While Shinsai illustrated books and designed single-sheet prints throughout his career, he is best known for his surimono. These lavishly printed works were commissioned for special occasions, such as the New Year or poetry competitions. Adorned with gold, silver, lacquer, embossing, and mica, no expense was spared in the production of these exquisite works. Shinsai is also experimented with Western one-point perspective and shading in his landscape prints.