Outer wrapper, from a set 4 of a Hana Kurabe series of 10 sets


Historical period(s)
Meiji era, 1875-1880
Woodblock print; ink on paper
H x W: 40.5 x 53.5 cm (15 15/16 x 21 1/16 in) (open)
Credit Line
Bequest of John Winter
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

Provenance information is currently unavailable

1. (James T. Ulak, Acquisition Consideration Justification, September 2008)

Th[is] collection was assembled by Dr. Winter, the late Head Scientist of the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, over period from the late 1950s until the mid-1970s.

Although the arrival of the collection to the museum in mid-summer has precluded the opportunity for extensive research, a preliminary survey conducted over the course of one week revealed no significant anomalies. Interestingly, when comparing the offered items with existing Freer and Sackler holdings of similar materials (including Pulverer) only one duplication was noted. Dr. Winter collected with a discerning eye for composition and vignette. Physical condition of the overall collection varies, but is generally in a range expected for items representing a nearly two hundred year chronology. Many of the mid-to-late 19th century works are in excellent condition, while earlier works exhibit age-appropriate but acceptable condition. Our overall assessment of the quality of the collection is very positive.

Because of strict time conditions imposed by the Estate, we have taken a decision to promptly acquire the Winter Bequest for the Freer Study Collection. Over the next year, based on further research, a significant number of the works will later be recommended for transfer to the Freer permanent collection. In accordance with our procedures, such recommendations will be presented to the Acquisitions Committee for consideration.

The acquisition of the Winter Bequest enhances existing holding as well as providing new and comparatively rare examples to the Japanese graphic arts holdings of both museums. For example, the Freer and Sackler’s already strong group of works in several media—lacquer, painting and woodblock prints-- by the late 19th century artist Shibata Zeshin (1807-91), are supplemented by a pristine set of Zeshin’s charming Hana kurabe series (V3.2008.1-11). Yet another surprising find in the Bequest are images from the Tales of Ise series (c. 1772-3) designed by Katsukawa Shunsho (1726-92). This rare and important series depicting episodes from the late 10th century lyric narrative Tales of Ise had an original production set featuring forty-eight of the most famous of the more than one hundred episodes. The series was apparently issued in two twenty-four print installments. The British Museum possesses the only complete set of these prints, while the Art Institute of Chicago has the initial twenty-four print installment. An addition to the Freer holdings of ten prints from the first installment from this series is notable. (V2008.3.74-83). Also in the Winter Bequest are six from a total of eight rare prints by Shunsho’s disciple Katsukawa Shunzan (fl.ca.1782-98). The Eight Views of Omi (V3.2008.42-47) are distinctive for their delicate rendering of canonical scenes around Lake Biwa to the east of Kyoto. A number of fine prints by the 19th century masters Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864) and Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) are notable for good condition and unusual subject matter. A powerful triptych featuring images of the Buddhist deity Fudo-myo and attendants by Kunidasa is one such striking example.(V3.2008.36). Two rare maps designed to guide pilgrims through the notionally imposed mandala from the base to the summit of the sacred Mount Fuji provide an even more nuanced prespective to numerous Freer and Sackler works describing the profound religious importance of this site. (V3.2008.96-97).

Further investigation may identify a few works to be early 20th century reproductions of 19th century surimono type prints. One surimono attributed to Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) might be an example (V3.2008.69) from a noted batch of copies unwittingly accessioned as originals into many Western collections. The research value of such prints is considerable.

As an internationally recognized authority on materials, structures and deterioration mechanisms in East Asian paintings, Dr. Winter’s varied personal collection has an additional archival value as it provides insights into the aesthetic judgements of a distinguished researcher whose total body of work will surely be the source of continued investigation.

Objects of this type are not restricted from export under Japanese cultural properties regulations.

2. (Mami Hatayama and Arakawa Kyoko, November 20, 2008)

Around 1875-80 Shibata Zeshin created ten groups of surimono. Each group consisted of 12 single-sheet prints, all packaged within a block-printed wrapper. The series is a version of hana kurabe (comparison of flowers). Mami Hatayama is a scholar who is working on Zeshin and has indentified the idividual prints and the set from which they came.

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