The Seven Gods of Good Fortune Having a Drinking Party, c. 1880
Ink on Paper
14 13/16 in. x 29 1/2 in. (376.24 mm x 749.3 mm)
The Japanese goddess Benzaiten, clad in a colorful kimono on the right-hand side of this print, is a highly syncretic deity of Hindu origin who gradually assimilated aspects from Buddhist and Shinto traditions as her worship spread across Asia. She is predominantly associated with water, and by extension, with everything else that ‘flows’ like water, such as snakes, dragons, speech, and music. In her portrayals, she is often depicted playing a lute—a nod to her beginnings as the Hindu goddess of music and education, Sarasvati, who was introduced to Japan around the 7th century CE as a Buddhist deity. In the years that followed, Sarasvati metamorphosized into the goddess Benzaiten after melding with native Shinto agricultural deities.
Benzaiten is venerated today in Japan at Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines by those who seek wealth, fertility, and bountiful harvests. Although she is worshipped as an individual goddess, it is more common to see her depicted as one of the Seven Lucky Gods (Japanese: shichifukujin), as she is here. She is the only female deity in this group.
This particular print is a humorous portrayal of the Seven Lucky Gods, who appear to be jesting with one another whilst drinking themselves into a stupor. To the right, Benzaiten coyly tucks her chin into the sleeve of her kimono as she is led away by Daikoku, the god of wealth. At the center, Hotei, the god of good fortune, sits before a fish feast with his enormous belly on display, laughing at the antics of a scarecrow-like puppet. The leftmost figure—Jurōjin, the god of longevity—gapes open his mouth in what seems to be a yawn.
-Anabella Walser ’22, Peggy Phelps Curatorial Intern
Triptych; 3 panels are not cojoined. Seven gods of good fortune: Prints like this were common New Year's gifts, with humorous renderings of the seven gods. Hotei sits with his enormous belly exposed, while Bishamon sleeps on Hotei's bag. Ebisu crawls along the ground at center while Daikoku seems to be leading the goddess of music Benten off to the right. At left Fukurokuju, the god of longevity, carries a scarecrow while Jurojin stands to the side.
On mat, in pencil: Marer 407. Japanese text all over in the image. Signed: Oju Yoshitoshi giga. Artist's seal: Yoshitoshi no in. Carver: Horiko Ginjiro.
Colored ink woodblock on paper; oban; triptych.
Meiji period Japanese color woodblock print with an image of a comical group scene. Triptych.
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