Kyoka and Surimono

Kyoka and Surimono
2 records
Humor and luxury formed a chic combination in kyοka (“mad” poems), and surimono (privately published prints) during a fad that lasted from the 1790s to the 1840s in Edo (modern Tokyo). The images on the prints might link disparate topics from the poems transcribed there, or add a twist playing on a double meaning within a poem’s text. The function of the illustration was, however, secondary to the printed verse; kyoka poets hired artists to decorate collections of their verses.

Nineteenth-century surimono were often printed in a square format, mirroring the shape of a traditional poem card. The use of precious metals on the polychrome prints suggested the gold and silver foils and dyed papers that decorated the poem cards painted by courtiers. Kyoka were written in the form of traditional waka poems, following a 5, 7, 5, 7, and 7 syllabification format. Playing on this form, and often quoting directly from courtly poems of old, contemporary writers skewed diction and subject matter in humorous ways that tested the erudition of the reader.

- Hollis Goodall, Curator, Japanese Art (2007)