Morning glory flowers, calligraphy brush and poems (surimono), c. 1865-1880s
by Shibata Zeshin
Being a painter of the Shijō school, Zeshin's surimono have been referred to as "Shijō surimono." Robert Schapp writes, "Shijō surimono seemed to have flourished mainly after the gradual disappearance of their ukiyo-e counterparts in the 1830s. And based on his sound Shijō education the talented Zeshin soon became one of the leading designers for Shijō surimono in Edo." He notes that while the total number of surimono designed by Zeshin is unknown, it may run into the thousands.
In this print, three Japanese morning glory flowers, asagao 朝顔, appear with a calligraphy brush. Eighteen haikai (seventeen syllable poems) and the names of their composers are written to the left of the image, with the signature and seal of the calligrapher in the leftmost column.
The Art Institute Chicago notes, "Many examples of large-scale [and smaller] surimono by Shibata Zeshin exist; he must have set up a large establishment in order to cater to orders from poets and intellectuals. Since Zeshin was engaged in many official commissions in other media and had a large group of apprentices, he probably left most of the details of surimono production to his apprentices."