Kyōsai School : On the Belly of Calmness, The Hand of Anxiety

Kyōsai School

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Artist: Kyōsai School
Title: On the Belly of Calmness, the Hand of Anxiety. どきやうのはらの上 あわてといふ手 .
Date: ca. 1864

On the Belly of Calmness, the Hand of Anxiety. (Dokyo no hara no ue, awate to iu te) 「どきやうのはらの上」あわてといふ手 . As noted on the MFA website, the two body parts symbolize the contrasting the reactions of the citizens of Edo to a possible foreign invasion. The group lower right that is perched on a giant belly (note the belly button) are calmly going about their daily lives, business as usual. It is probably implicit that these folks would stand to profit from trading with the foreigners. The other folks pictured are in a state of panic, rushing about to sell their homes, move their possessions out of town and generally get the hell out of Dodge. There is a workman with tattoos clinging to on one the fingers of the giant hand, a nice touch. It is possible that the five fingers of the giant hand represent the five Western powers of the US, the Netherlands, Russia, England and France. This print was published at about the same time that Kyosai published a triptych of his own that was a satirical look at the reactions of the Japanese government to the western powers in which an octopus is shown surrounded by strange characters. In 1864 a fleet of warships from England, France, American and Holland bombarded Shimonoseki in retaliation for Choshu’s earlier attacks on foreign ships. Power was also shifting from the shogunate to the imperial court, so life for the Japanese was unusually chaotic. The MFA website states that this work was published by Kyosai himself, something quite unusual if this is the case. 

Condition: Very good impression, color and condition. Minor repaired binding holes and wormage.
Dimensions: ôban diptych
Signed : Unsigned


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