HOKUSAI (1760-1849)

Monkey on Turtle
Signed: … Hokusai aratame Iitsu hitsu
Series: Mukashibanashi chijin’yu
circa 1821


This surimono (privately commissioned print) depicts a well-known folktale of a monkey who is lured by a turtle to the Dragon King’s Palace in the sea. The monkey is told that the king’s daughter has a disease that can only be cured by a live monkey’s liver. The monkey responds that monkeys’ livers are too heavy and they never carry them with them. The turtle returns with the monkey, allowing the monkey to escape.

Although Hokusai is best remembered for his landscapes, it is really in his surimono that he was at his artistic best. These privately commissioned deluxe prints were intended as New Year’s cards, special announcements, or gifts for members of poetry and other clubs. These prints not only show off Hokusai’s flair for design they also have wit, elegance, and imagination along with finer, more beautiful printing that is frequently far superior to what is found in his commercial work. 

Turtles were popular subjects of surimono because of their association with longevity.  One poet, Shikyo, in fact wrote poems for turtle surimonos every New Year.


Very good impression and colors (very slightly faded and toned). Generally very good condition


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