Suzuki Harunobu (1725?-1770)
Harvest Moon, after the poem by Minamoto no Saneakira
Japan, Edo period, c. 1767-1768
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Gift of James A. Michener, 1959
Honolulu Museum of Art
This feeling of yearning might not be shared,
Yet are you not also looking at this evening’s moon?
Like the previous print, this composition was inspired by a poem by one of the “36 Poetry Immortals” (sanjūrokkasen), Minamoto no Saneakira (910-970). Harunobu was one of the most lyrical of all print designers, and the sentiments of ancient poetry particularly suited his delicate imagery. He frequently drew from classical sources but updated them for a contemporary audience.
Harunobu once again uses the seasonal symbolism of the poem to express the emotions of his subject, a woman concerned with the fragility of her beauty, besieged by both solitude and inevitable aging. The woman’s loose clothing suggests her distraction as she looks pensively beyond the isolation of her bedroom to the river flowing past the veranda, intensifying her sense of time moving her steadily away from her youth.
The loneliness of the scene is heightened by the pair of ducks on the painted fusuma sliding door panel behind her, representing marriage. Typically, Harunobu has cleverly incorporated his signature into the lower left corner of the painting.