This humorous image depicts Fukurojin, one of a group of Chinese divinities called the “Seven Household Gods,” who were also popular folk deities in Japan. Fukurojin, an old man, is always distinguished in this group by an exaggerated, tall forehead, which is taken to be indicative of his superhuman intelligence and wisdom. He stands under a pine tree with branches that are softly brushed to create the sense of long, thick pine needles, and he is dressed in a voluminous robe decorated with cranes and long-tailed turtles. In Asian mythology these three motifs—pine, crane, and turtle—are symbols of longevity.
Jakuchu, one of the Three Eccentrics of the Edo period (1615–1868), was a remarkable individualist whose paintings defy easy classification. Born in Kyoto, he was the eldest son of a wealthy greengrocer. Although he inherited the family business, he left the running of the shop to his brother and devoted his entire life to painting. Jakuchu’s oeuvre is extensive and broad in scope. His style ranges from colorful, decorative works on silk to daring compositions in ink; his subjects include elegant depictions of flowers and barnyard fowl, as well as major Buddhist icons and narrative themes.