Gakutei: Courtesan with Origami Frog
Artist: Yashima Gakutei
Title: Courtesan with Origami Frog
Series: From ten of Tochigi Circle: Biographies of Hermits Compared with Courtesans (Tochigi-ren jûban no uchi in a rectangular cartouche, keisei mitate in a coin center, retsusen-den in a coin left)
Date: ca. 1824
A beauty cradles an origami frog. In this series Yoshiwara courtesans are linked with Daoist Immortals through mitate, or humorous comparison. This courtesan represents Gama (Hama, or Liu Haichan), who is often shown conversing with a a mystical three-legged white toad. The first ediition was printed with a fragile blue background by the poetry group Tsurunoya. This is from a reissued set, done very shortly after the first issue due to the popularity of the images and featuring a pink background and different poems. A third set was even commissioned by Sipporen later. The poem seems to say: “Harusame no, Ito no tekudani, Kyaku jin no, Kaeru o tomuru, Keisei no jyutsu”. A poem by Tsûyôtei on the left means: “Just like fine spring rains, a courtesan tries to weave her fine tricks to prevent her guest from leaving.” There is a pun of a word kaeru meaning a toad as well as to leave. The title gama is a common name for a kind of toads kaer, namely hikigaeru. There were two Chinese hermits known as Hermits of Toads, Gama sen’nin, who used toads to cast magic.The background has a pattern of stylized circular cranes against a net.
Condition: Very good impression, color and condition.
Publisher: Commissioned by Kuchiki-ren
Literature: See “Reading Surimono” (2008) by John Carpenter, page 171, plate 44, for a full discussion of this print.
Signature: Toto Gakutei