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Woman Holding a Crayfish

This rare print by Suzuki Harunobu is ostensibly an image of a young woman, but it is a mitate, or visual word play, parodying a famous Buddhist parable in which a monk performs the shocking act of catching and presumably eating a living thing. The purpose of the parable is to create an unsolvable paradox through which the viewer is brought to satori, or enlightenment. Alternatively, the print also entertains the viewer, who recognizes the source of the image in its altered form and delights in the richness of the pun.

Suzuki Harunobu
Japanese 1724–1770
Woman Holding a Crayfish
Woodblock print; ink and color on paper
10 11/16 x 7 13/16 in. (27.14 x 19.84 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift of Charles Page, 68.204