A Picture of Loss in a Fruitful Year: 1884

YOSHITOSHI TSUKIOKA: A Picture of Loss in a Fruitful Year: 1884

The seven lucky gods are a mixed lot. Only one is native Japanese: Ebisu, whose black hat you can see above, is the god of trade, good fortune, fishermen and rice growers. Three others, including Daikokutin, the other face visible under the sack, are from India. Daikokutin is a god of prosperity, flood control, farming and kitchens, and is often seen with Ebisu. The sack belongs to a third god, Hotei, who, with two others, originated in China. The bag is full of whatever it is you need, and will never run out. Hotei is the laughing Buddha one often sees in small statuettes: rubbing his stomach is said to bring good luck, and he is the god of Happiness.

The seven lucky gods turn up everywhere in Japan, individually and collectively, as trinkets, wall plaques, statues and, as here, prints. They are familiar gods, like the lares and penates of Rome, and are usually depicted with affectionate humanity: there are well-known prints showing them drunk, frightened, seasick and roistering.

Here, Yoshitoshi shows them being attacked by Sickness and Poverty -- note the very empty sack being carried by the figure behind left. 1884 was not a good year for many Japanese: severe inflation undercut every household, and it is likely that this is Yoshitoshi's reaction after one of his regular employers cut his salary.

Larger image: 275K - 1220 pixels wide
Yoshitoshi biography.

 

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