Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/52

This page has been validated.



prints; Shigenaga is said to have been the first to employ them, about 1730.

Colour-prints go by the name of nishikiye, i.e. brocade pictures; the general name for single-sheet prints is ichimaiye. Three further special kinds must be mentioned here. The first is the triptychs, consisting of a single design covering three folio leaves; pentaptychs are not unknown. The second is the long narrow strips which Fenollosa calls kakemonos. The best masters have been tempted to try their hand at this species, which at first sight would seem to give scope but for a single figure, and even that in none but quiet poses. Yet it has been employed with the happiest results for designs with two, three, or even more figures, side by side or one above the other, at rest or in active movement. Thirdly, there are the square surimonos, which art-lovers sent to each other as New Year's greetings, and which also served to convey congratulations or announcements on other occasions; their get-up was most luxurious, gold, silver, and various kinds of bronze toning, a profusion of colours and blind impression were lavished upon them.[1] Harunobu is said to have been the first to bring them into fashion, his prints dated 1765 being doubtless referred to; Hokusai and his pupil Hokkei produced a number of the very finest. A celebrated example of them is the series of seven designs by Shuntei, representing the seven Gods of Good Fortune in the shape of well-favoured and gorgeously robed ladies; these same seven gods entering harbour on their ship in the night between the second and third days of the New Year, is another favourite subject. Brinckmann has pointed out that two years, 1804 and 1823, are conspicuous for their large output of finely printed surimonos. The former was the first year of a cycle of sixty years, according to a system of computation borrowed from China, the seventy-fourth cycle, to

  1. Brinckmann, p. 291 ff.