set of three hanging scrolls, ink and color on silk; signed Hoitsu hitsu with artist's seal Hoitsu and second artist's seal Kigyokubaku
paintings: 41 1/2 by 14 1/8 in.
105.5 by 36 cm
overall: 74 3/8 by 15 in.
189 by 38 cm
Accompanied by a storage box with title and signature, chu fumiuri zu sanpukutsui ('middle' letter-seller triptych), Hoitsu shoin zu mo (copied after Hoitsu's paintings), Kigyoku hitsu (painted by Kigyoku)
This triptych presents subjects associated with early spring-time celebrations: the lunar New Year and setsubun (the first day before spring). Setsubun (lit. 'seasonal divide'), the first day before a new season, usually refers to the spring setsubun, which was usually celebrated around the same time as the lunar New Year.
The central painting depicts a kensobum-uri (lit. a fortune-letter seller) holding pine sprigs adorned with folded letters. The kensobumi-uri (identified by covered faces) would sell the letters at shrines during the setsubun. The letters were believed to work as a sort of talisman for good fortune: if one kept the letter safely throughout the year it would bring the perfect partner, financial success, and improve one's appearance. The practice of selling 'fortune-letters' during the setsuban began during the Heian period (12th century), but had dwindled by the end of the Edo period (19th century).
The right painting depicts plum blossoms and shuttlecock; the left painting shows a hexagonal toy called buriburi beside a sprig of holly; all are references to early spring and the New Year.
As the inscription on the box indicates, it is very likely that Kigoyku had access to a set of paintings of the same subject by Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828), and was able to precisely copy the works, including the signatures.
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(212) 585-0474 or email
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site last updated
July 29, 2022
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475
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