Nishikie, surimono: mm 139 x 187
Signed: Shinsai ga
Series: 'A matching Game of Poems'
Publisher: Yomogawa, 1809.
Very fine impression, colour and condition. Printed with metallic pigments and blindprinting on fine and heavy paper.
A courtesan seated at a black-lacquered toilet case and mirror stand arrange the collar of her under-kimono. Another courtesan with a water basin in front of her turn towards a young playing with a shuttlecock.
‘The Pure Red Shell’ is the number 6 of the Series ‘A Matching Game of Poems’, composed by 36 surimono, 10 of which are preserved in the Rijskmuseum (Matthi Forrer, 2013, nn. 154 – 162, pp. 92 – 96). An impression of ‘The Pure Red Shell’ is conserved in the Rijkmuseum (op. cit. , n. 154, link
The three poems are works of other three poet: Goyasudai Aritsune, Kagyotei Tetsuito (or Tetsundo) e Yomo no Utagaki Magao (1753 – 1829), Shikatsube Magao, pupil of Yomo Akara.
The Aritsune’s poem reads: ‘The red shells are even happier this New Year when they see the Goddess of Spring in the large mirror’
At the time, this Series, composed by 36 luxury surimono plus an additional sheet, ‘The Table of Contents’, with small design of all the shells depicted in the 36 surimono, was one of the largest groups of surimono issued simultaneously.
It was followed by other series: Hokusai ‘Twenty-four Examples of Filial Piety’, dateble 1800, Sori ‘s ‘The Thirty – six Poets as Craftsmen’, 1802 and the untitled series of the Small Tōkaidō of Hokusai, composed by 54 design, dateble 1804 c.
However no one of this Series reach the perfection and the elegance of ‘A Matching Game of Poems’, for the refinement of the colour and for the use of metallic pigments.
The same sequence was used after in the Hokusai’s Series ‘ A Matching Game with the Genroku Poem Shell’, 1821.
The Surimono were originally created individually, only in the early 1800’s the idea of Series of surimono developed.
Ryūryūkyo Shinsai was a pupil of Katsushika Hokusai; his first work was a humorous illustrated book ‘ A Cat Visits the Prostitutes’, published in 1799. Shinsai specialized in Surimono and privately commissioned works. In the early 1800s Shinsai designed prints in small formats, in the mid-1810s he began working in the square format.
He was one of the first surimono designers to explore the still life., he was also one of the first artists to design large sets of surimono the first being ‘Kasen awase’ designed for the Yomo Group in 1809 on the theme of the ‘ Thirty-six Shells’.