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The Rat’s Wedding

Utagawa Toyoharu

Artwork Details

The Rat’s Wedding
late 18th century - early 19th century
Utagawa Toyoharu
color woodblock print on paper
( )
Museum Purchase
1960/1.162

On Display

Not currently on display

Description

Utagawa Toyoharu
Japan, ca. 1735–1814
The Rat’s Wedding
Edo period (1615–1868)
Late 18th century–early 19th century
Color woodblock print on paper
Museum purchase, 1960/1.162

Utagawa Toyoharu is famous for his panoramic prints of historical
events and legendary stories that incorporate a one-point vanishing
perspective modeled after European art. The Rat’s Wedding, a fable
known across much of Asia, utilizes this technique, called uki-e or
“floating picture,” to illustrate a portion of a popular folktale set
against a detailed architectural landscape.

In the fable, a young female rat comes of age and her parents
ask the sun, the most powerful being in the world, to marry her.
Although honored by their request, the sun tells them that clouds
are stronger, because they can block his rays. So the parents make
their proposal to a cloud, who directs them to the wind, which bows
to the strength of the wall. The wall explains that the strongest force
in the world is a rat, which can make holes in its frame, so the rat
maiden is happily wed to a rat. The jubilant wedding procession is
depicted here. On another level, this print can be interpreted as a
satire in which rats mimic the ostentatious weddings of upper-class
samurai (the ruling military class).

Summer 2023 Gallery Rotation 
__________

Utagawa Toyoharu is famous for his panoramic prints of historical events and legendary stories that incorporate one-point vanishing perspective modeled after European prints. The Rat’s Wedding utilizes this technique, called uki-e or “floating picture,” to illustrate a portion of a popular folktale set against a deep, detailed architectural landscape.
The Rat’s Wedding is a fable known across much of Asia, in which a young rat female comes of age. Her parents decide to wed her to the most powerful being in the world, and ask the sun to marry her. Although honored by their request, the sun tells them that clouds are stronger than he, blocking his rays. They make their proposal to a cloud, who directs them to the wind, and the wind bows to the strength of the wall. The wall explains that the strongest force in the world is a rat, able to make holes in his frame. The rat maiden is happily wed to a rat, and the jubilant procession is depicted here. On another level, this print can be interpreted as a satire, in which rats mimic the ostentatious weddings of upper-class samurai.
(Japanese Gallery Rotation, Spring 2009)

Subject Matter:


The Rat’s Wedding is a fable known across much of Asia, including Japan, in which a young rat female comes of age. Her parents decide to wed her to the most powerful being in the world, and ask the sun to marry her. Although honored by their request, the sun tells them that clouds are stronger than he, blocking his rays. They make their proposal to a cloud, who directs them to the wind, and the wind bows to the strength of the wall. The wall explains that the strongest force in the world is a rat, able to make holes in his frame. The rat maiden is finally wed to a rat, and the jubilant procession is depicted here.

Physical Description:

The majority of this print depicts a deep architectural setting. In front of the buildings a wedding procession takes place. Rats, in daimyo fashion, are celebrating.

Usage Rights:

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