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Colour woodblock print "Horse Burdock" from the Umazukushi series (Series of Horses). This surimono depicts ingredients for osechi-ryōri, traditional Japanese dishes served on New Year’s day, featuring a bundle of burdock by a lacquered box containing rice cakes, and two sardines in the foreground. An envelope, used for money gifts, also appears.

History Of Use

A surimono 摺物 (literally, “printed things”) is a particular genre of Japanese woodblock print, and refers to privately commissioned or issued prints distributed in limited editions, mainly produced in the 1790s–1830s. They often include images and poetic inscriptions or verses. While surimono were designed in various sizes and formats, the design format was more or less standardized by around 1810. Shikishiban (c. 20.5 x 18.5 cm) was one of the standardized formats. Surimono were often commissioned as gifts or for special occasions such as the New Year; they were not sold to the public for commercial gain. The New Year is the most important holiday in Japan. Still life was a popular subject in surimono designs, but neglected in typical ukiyo-e prints.


Signed Fusenkyo Iitsu hitsu (不染居為一筆, painted by Fusenkyo Iitsu) in the bottom left. Fusenkyo Iitsu is one of many pseudonyms the artist used. Two kyōka (狂歌, comic or satirical poems) appear. This surimono entitled Umafubuki (馬蕗) is believed to be one of thirty-three prints in the series Umazukushi (馬盡), commissioned for the year of the horse in 1822. The images in this series are not of horses, but are evoked from words associated with the word uma (horse). The series title is missing from this print.

Iconographic Meaning

The title of the work, umafubuki is an old name for gobō or burdock. Typical dishes for osechi-ryōri have symbolic meanings. Because of its long tap root, gobō symbolizes a long life. Tatsukuri or tazukuri, a dish made with baby sardines, represents a good harvest as dried sardines were used as a fertilizer for rice farming in the past. Rice cakes or mochi, a symbol of longevity, are added to ozōni, a special soup made during the New Year celebration.

Specific Techniques

While surimono were designed in various sizes and formats, the design format was more or less standardized by around 1810. Shikishiban (around 20.5 x 18.5cm) was one of such standardized formats. Surimono often include images and poetic inscription or verses.

Item History

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