Katsushika Hokusai, 'The Talisman' (Mayoke), a colour woodblock print


British Museum

British Museum

Surimono (literally ‘printed thing') were de luxe colour woodblock prints privately produced as greetings or tributes for special occasions such as the New Year or a person's change of name. In 1822, a Year of the Horse, Hokusai designed a series of elegant still-life surimono compositions, called Uma-zukushi ('A Set of Horses'), which all contained oblique references to the animal.

Most surimono included a poem. The one inscribed on this print is by Sanseitei Marumi:

Nioteru haru ni
ōmi no ya
Kagami no yama o
Miru mo mabayuki

In the rays
Of the Spring sun
On Lake Biwa
Mirror Mountain
Also glitters

(Translation by Roger Keyes)

The ōmi hakkei ('Eight Views' of Lake Biwa near Kyoto) had long been a subject for classical ink-paintings, and was also taken up by print artists (see also the example by Hiroshige). Hokusai introduces a number of references here: Mii Temple, Ishiyama Temple and Mount Hira appear on the porcelain plant pot; the lacquer pitcher and basin are decorated with scenes of the Ukimidō 'Floating' Temple at Katada and the Long Bridge of Seta; on the towel we see Awazu Castle and the returning boats at Yabase (the towel itself representing the sail); and the miniature pine tree recalls the ancient pine at Karasaki.

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  • Title: Katsushika Hokusai, 'The Talisman' (Mayoke), a colour woodblock print
  • Date Created: 1822/1822
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 20.10cm; Width: 17.60cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: woodblock
  • Subject: still-life
  • Registration number: 1937,0710,0.212
  • Production place: Made in Japan
  • Producer: Print artist Katsushika Hokusai. Inscription by Marumi, Sanseitei
  • Period/culture: Bunsei Era
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Shannon, Charles