Why does this print have the bottom cut out like that?
The shape of this print by Eisen tells us that it was intended to become part of a fan. The person who purchased this print would have cut it out and glued it to a fan. Fan prints like this were seasonal fashion accessories.
This print, which appeared in 1829, started a fashion for all-blue prints (called aizuri-e), which can be seen in the surrounding works! The commercial print industry in Edo was incredibly versatile
and interested in new and novel material.
This print is also one of the rarer types to exist in museum collections--which is why we're so lucky to have it! There are a lot of incredible details in this print. I especially like the way that the moon is reflected in the pond (you can find it below the bridge).
What do the words mean?
The words on this print by Eisen are the work's publication information, actually. It contains a poem, the name of the artist, the name of the publisher, and the date!
The parts enclosed in circles are seals, which are part of the publication information, which was a required aspect of fan prints at the time. The characters on their own are Eisen's name and the poem.
Is aizuri-e a type of print or style?
Aizuri-e is a type of print. It translates to "blue-printed picture." If you see, there are different categories of prints shown here, landscapes and human figures. The thing that makes them all aizuri-e is that they are all blue.
It's fascinating how the blue prints remind me of the ceramics...that was intentional correct?
Yes! The were looking towards blue-and-white porcelain for designs. The first print is especially using motifs from porcelain and has numerous references to China. Blue was also seen as a popular summer color; the all-blue fan prints were produced as summer fashion accessories.
I didn't know it was related to summer!
May I know if the scene is supposed to be in Japan or China?
The print is showing a Chinese landscape scene, one that would have been immediately recognized
as "Chinese" by the Edo-period Japanese audience. There is a seal on the painting that states that it is a Chinese landscape, as well.
Why would he want to paint a Chinese landscape?
Chinese landscape painting has long been used as a reference point and source of inspiration by Japanese artists. Additionally, Japan had been importing Chinese blue-and-white porcelain for over 400 years and started producing their own blue-and-white porcelain in the 17th century, which is one of the reasons why the color scheme here is in shades of blue.
What does the large block of text read?
It is the title of the work and a poem. It reads, "Fine moon-viewing at the edge of the pond,
as friends in groups stroll by
rousing the dozing water birds
which rise in a cloud of mist."