Eishi Chobunsai, Phoenix Boat, Beauties, Edo


Artist: Eishi Chobunsai (1756-1829)
Title: A Boat with a Phoenix Figure-Head
Date: 1791-1804
Publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi
Size: (L) 37.0 x 24.8, (C) 37.1 x 25.0, (R) 37.0 x 25.1 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

Beauties float on a treasure boat, imitating the Seven Gods of Good Fortune. They carry God's attributes, including the hat of invisibility (allowing to act good without being seen), rolls of brocade (clothing was valued in ancient times and used in various rituals) or scrolls of wisdom & longevity.


The phoenix-headed boat boldly cuts through the waves. In East Asian mythology phoenix was a creature that reigns over all other birds.
Originally, there was a distinction between male and female phoenix, however, it no longer exists. Phoenix, a symbol of high virtue and grace, became a single feminine entity and it is paired with the dragon, which traditionally symbolises a male. Together, dragon-and-phoenix design embodies blissful relations between husband and wife. Interestingly, there are various depictions of The Seven Gods of Good Fortune on a treasure boat, which has a head of a dragon on a bow.


The beauties are dressed in elaborately patterned kimono, each of them positioned in an elegant, feminine way. Some of their garments are decorated with delicate karazuri (embossing) design, which makes the overall image even more alluring.

Eishi Chobunsai (1756 - 1829)

In the genre of Japanese art, Eishi Chobunsai, also known as Eishi Hosoda, was an ukiyo-e painter and print designer, regarded for his depictions of tall, thin, graceful beauties. The eldest son of a local Edo samurai official of the Hosoda family, Eishi studied under Kano Michinobu, and served as an official court painter to the shogunate for a number of years. His art-name, Eishi, was granted to him personally by the shogun Tokugawa Ieharu (1737-1786).

However in the mid-1780s, Eishi made a dramatic change, and moved from the realm of elite painting to ukiyo-e, becoming a pupil of Bunryusai and the Torii school. His style shows influence from Utamaro Kitagawa, Torii Kiyonaga and others, but bears distinctive elements as well. Eishi's women are tall and slender, a continuation and development of a trend begun by Utamaro and Kiyonaga. They exude a refinement and grace rarely exceeded in bijinga (prints of beautiful women) by other artists. Eishi’s artistic output includes Shunga (erotic pictures), as well as prints with themes taken from Japanese and Chinese mythology, and romantic scenes.

Around 1798, he quit print designs, and turned his attention more fully to painting. It is said that one of his handscrolls, depicting scenes along the Sumidagawa, so impressed the wealthy patrons for whom it was painted that they presented it at a special showing to the Imperial family. This was an especially rare honour for a common ukiyo-e piece, one which perhaps no other ukiyo-e artist ever enjoyed.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistEishi Chobunsai (1756 - 1829)
SubjectBeauty & Female, Ghosts & Religion, Kimono Design
Size(L) 37.0 x 24.8, (C) 37.1 x 25.0, (R) 37.0 x 25.1 cm
publisherNishimuraya Yohachi:1751-1860