Kubo Shunman
Creeping Saxifrage and Gold Nettle
c. 1810

From: Kasumi-ren sōmoku-awase; “A Collection of Plants for the ‘Mist Circle’”(poetry circle) Signed: Shunman sei and logo surimono, shikishi-ban, 21.2 x 18.2 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri and kimekomi

From “A Collection of Plants for the Poetry Circle ‘Mist Circle’” Like the calendar prints from the 1760s, many surimono were later commissioned by poets’ circles. One of the most important of these groups was the Kasumi-ren (“Mist Circle”). Surimono series offered them an opportunity both to publish their poems as well as to view works of art (prints and drawings). It includes a waka poem about saxifrage (yukinoshita) and one about gold nettles (yae-yamabuki).

Provenance: Toni Straus-Negbauer (Berlin, 1928); Horst A. Rittershofer (Berlin, November 1963)
Riese Collection #51

Like the calendar prints of the 1760s, many of the finest surimono were commissioned by the poetry circles. One of the most important of these groups in the 1810s was the Kasumi-ren, or Mist Circle, whose emblem was a circle with three dots and a stylised drum, the emblem of the group’s leader Dondontei Wataru. (To a Japanese ear, the beat of a drum sounds like dondon). Sets of surimono were occasions for the publication of poetry as well as for the appreciation of printing and design, and in this way they were heirs to the tradition of poetry albums in the late 1780s and 1790s, like Utamaro’s Insect Book and Shell Book. The poem by Kugakurō Satochika praises the golden blossoms of the yamabuki. The lower poem by Itōan Tsunahiko presents an elaborate play on words involving Soga no Jūrō, his lover Tora, creeping saxifrage, the poet’s own name. One would like to characterize in the next to the last line to read “year of the tiger”, establishing 1818 as the date for this remarkable series, but they read “ear of the tiger” instead, another name fort he creeping saxifrage.
The poems read:

neriage ni    Itogai ni
kasanaru kogane    Sukenari ya uen
yamabuki no    yukinoshita
hana mite haru o   tora no mimi chō
atatamarabaya    moji ni nazumite
Kugakurō Satochika    Itōan Tsunahiko

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 45.