Harunobu 春信: The Bird-cage Letterbox (Lovenote)

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Artist: Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木春信 (1725?-1770)
Title: The Bird-cage Letterbox (Lovenote)
Date: ca. 1766-67

A young woman holds a birdcage to delight her young lover; he covertly passes her a note beneath the bottom of the cage as she smiles down at him. Jack Hillier wrote the following description of this work in his 1970 Philadelphia Museum catalog: “In a room of a yashiki (a mansion), a youth on his knees surreptitiously inserts a love-letter into the bird-cage which the girl standing before him is showing to him. Prominent in the background is the black timber framework of a ‘bell-shaped’ opening only partially closed by the shoji, so that the flowering plum outside can be seen.” This is an extremely scarce design, although there are many reproductions that prove the desirability of the design. The fugitive flower-based pigments have faded, but the strong grey and ochre are colors that are not subject to fading by moisture, and they serve to anchor the design. These colors seem to be based on iron  for the red and lead for the grey. (See Suzuki Harunobu, Chiba City Museum of Art, Hagi-Uragami i Museum, 2002, page 298 for a discussion of the colorants used in Harunobu prints.)A tender design of an intimate moment that shows strong feelings that must be hidden from public view. 

Condition: Excellent impression, very good condition; good/fair color. Printed on deluxe, heavy paper that gives the  beauty’s figure a mild gauffrage effect. Some scattered stains.
Dimensions: chûban 26.5 x 19.6 cm
Literature: See Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art. The MFA only has a poor reproduction. An image of the Hans Popper example is shown in “Suzuki Harunobu: An exhibition of his colour-prints and illustrated books on the occasion of the bicentenary of his death in 1770” by Jack Hillier, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1970; catalog number 53.
Signature: Suzuki Harunobu ga