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Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I (初代歌川豊国)

Print: The Moon (月): Onoe Matsusuke II [尾上松助] relaxing at night viewing the moon and bats

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Dates: 1812,created
Dimensions: 9.875 in,14.375 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Yamashiroya Tōemon
(Marks 605 - seal 01-099)

Related links: Waseda University;

Physical description:

The large figure 月 in the upper left means 'moon' or 'month' - tsuki. That is why we have titled this print: The Moon.

If you use the enlargement tool and look closely at the pipe Matsusuke is holding you will notice that it is decorated with a pine design. The word for pine in Japanese is matsu (松), the same kanji character as that used in his name. Combined with the phonetics of kanji for 'moon' we have an approximation of the actor's name. Such connections are not coincidental. They are clues - especially when the printed name of the actor is not spelled out on the print.

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One other incredibly strange subtlety is found with the two bats flying nearest the actor. Click on the image and then enlarge it to look more closely at them. They appear to be grinning. Whether maliciously or not, they definitely seem to be grinning. Does this strengthen the concept of this being some kink of an inside joke? Are we meant to smile along with the bats? A puzzlement.