Gather Together Pictures (yaso-e)


Each of these prints bears a different title in a rectangular red cartouche.  The text above the heads is sometimes humorous with many puns (kyôbun).  These prints are each about 14 by 10 inches (36 by 25 centimeters), a size known as ôban.


Title: At first glance he looks fierce, but he is really a kind person (Mikake wa koi-i tonda iku hitoda, みかけはこわいがとんだいい人だ)

Publisher: Fujioka-ya Hikotarô



This is a key block print for the above design.  It is an impression pulled from the first woodblock made by a carver from the artist’s original drawing.  The artist would write instructions for each color on a separate key block print, and the woodblock for each color was cut using one of these as a guide.  Registration marks (kento) are characteristically found on Japanese key block prints (the backwards ‘L’ in the right lower corner and the bar on the right side near the top).  Kento are cut in each woodblock, so that the paper can be properly aligned on each woodblock during printing.  In addition to being a guide for carving the color woodblocks, the key block was also used to apply black ink (usually) in the printing process.  Note that the fabric design is not included on the key block print and does not have a black outline.


Title: Men join together to form another man (Hito katamatte hito ni naru, 人かたまって人になる)

Publisher: Yamato-ya Kyűbei



Another state of the above design with a red title cartouche


Title: A tricky fellow fond of mischief (Hito o baka ni shita hito da, 人をばかにした人だ)

Publisher: Yamato-ya Kyűbei of Kawagashi


Image courtesy of Richard A. Waldman of The Art of Japan



I am grateful to Jerry Vegder for this 1891 copy of the above design published by Izumi Katsujirô.


Title: He looks young although he is made-up of the twelve signs for the years (Toshi ga yote mo wakai hito da, 年が寄っても若い人だ)

Publisher: Iba-ya Sensaburô


NOTE: This print contains the twelve signs of the Buddhist zodiac.  The head is a dog; the nose is a rabbit; the mouth is a snake; the left eye is a rat; the hair is composed of a cock and an ox; the eyebrows are tiger tails; a dragon and a monkey compose the birthmark on the forehead; the left ear is a horse; the character on the costume is a sheep is; and the crest on the costume is the tusks of a pig.


Title: Even though she looks old, she is really young (Toshiyori no na wakai hito da, 年よりのような若い人だ)

Publisher: Fujioka-ya Hikotarô



This is another edition of the above print.


Title: A Person as a person should be (Tadajiki nahito, 正じきな人)


This preparatory drawing was never made into a woodblock print.  The object in the right upper corner that resembles a bell is a rear view of a sitting man with a long unraveled loincloth. 

Title: Textile Pattern of People to Stop Your Yawning (欠留人物更紗, Akubidome jinbutsu sarasa)

Date: c. 1842

Publisher: Yamamoto Heikichi

This is another state of the above print, courtesy of Horst Graebner

Here are two composite portraits by the Italian (Milan) painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo (1527-1593) for comparison.  The one on the left is titled ‘Spring’, and the one on the right is titled ‘Winter’.

These two prints are by Kuniyoshiʼs student Yoshifuji.  The one on the left shows the cat-witch of Okabe, and the one on the right is titled ‘Kittens Gather Together to Become a Mother Catʼ (Koneko yoriatsumatte oya ni naru).