Lovers Walking in the Snow (Crow and Heron)

Artist: Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese, 1725–1770)

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)

Date: 1764–72

Culture: Japan

Medium: Polychrome woodblock print; ink and color on paper, with embossing (karazuri)

Dimensions: H. 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm); W. 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm)
medium-size print (chu-ban)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: The Howard Mansfield Collection, Purchase, Rogers Fund, 1936

Accession Number: JP2453


Of all ukiyo-e prints of lovers, this one creates the most romantic and melancholic mood. Harunobu emphasizes the intimacy of two lovers strolling in the snow, even suggesting perhaps a michiyuki, a path to a love suicide. The couple walk together in the quietly falling snow, in what is known as an ai ai gasa pose, literally, the sharing of an umbrella and love.

Harunobu, the originator of the polychrome print, or nishiki-e, shows his mastery of color, rendering the couple's robes in paired black and white, characterized as "crow and heron." In contrast to the plain colors, he decorates both the inner robe and the obi of each figure with elaborate polychrome patterns. Embossing brings out the soft, flaky texture of the snow and the patterns of the woman's kimono and hood. This print is an early impression of this design, which was re-engraved, with slight changes, during Harunobu's lifetime or shortly afterward.