Artist: Keisai Eisen (1790–1848)
Title: Reading Books
Series: Eight Favorite Things in the Modern World
Publisher: Izumiya Ichibei (Kansendo)
Size: 25.4 x 37.2 cm
Keisei Eisen’s series Eight Favourite Things in the Modern World juxtaposes courtesans with homages to contemporary life in the Edo period. The lasting peace of the Pax Tokugawa government enabled developments in education, and is understood as a time of increasing literacy among the population. Along with the dissemination of woodblock prints, classical literature was also avidly consumed by the general public. A pile of books can be seen on the top left corner of the print, with the first being a book illustrated by Eisen himself. Underneath this is the Nanso Satomi Hakkenden (The Eight Dog Chronicles), a popular novel by Kyokutei Bakin (1767-1848) that was serialised for 28 years.The epic tale of magic and revenge focuses on the battles of eight brothers who have spiritually descended from a dog and represent the Confucian virtues. This print points towards the comical with the Pekingese dog resting on the courtesans shoulder indicating the canine theme of the popular novel.