Mystical Bird (Karyōbinga)
Woodblock print (surimono); ink and color on paper • Edo period • 21,7 x 17,9 cm • 1820–33 • The Met
This surimono New Year’s card depicts a mystical Buddhist bird (karyōbinga in Japanese; kalavinca in Sanskrit) characterized by a bird’s body and a human head. It is said that one can never tire of listening to the creature’s heavenly music. The New Year’s poems were inscribed by Nikyō and Kokusui. Hokusai’s signature reads Hokusai aratame Iitsu (“Hokusai changed to Iitsu”). The work is from the artist’s very productive Iitsu period (ca. 1820–33).