Collection Spotlight: Hotei at Dusk (Higure Hotei), Utagawa Sadatora

Title: Hotei at Dusk (Higure Hotei), from the series The Seven Gods of Fortune (Toto shichi fukujin no uchi)
Artist: Utagawa Sadatora
Nationality: Japanese, ca. flourished 1818-44
Date: ca. 1820s
Medium: Color Woodcut, 14 1/4 in x 9 3/4 in
Credit: Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, purchase funds provided by Connie and Tom Hodson


Sadatora belonged to the Utagawa school of artists renowned for their ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world,” woodblock prints characterized by bold compositions and striking colors that celebrated the transient pleasures of everyday life. The Utagawa studio was very prolific, responsible for more than half of the ukiyo-e prints surviving today. Sadatora’s Hotei at Dusk exhibits one of the earliest uses of Prussian blue, an early form of synthetic pigment. Hotei at Dusk, acquired by The Block Museum in 2011, is the first Sadatora print in the Museum’s collection. The work, from a series depicting the seven Shinto gods of fortune, depicts a mother and child playfully looking at their reflection in a wash barrel. Hotei is the god of contentment—often recognized as the Japanese-Shinto iteration of the Chinese figure of the Laughing Buddha—and is also regarded as the guardian of children. Like the Buddha, Hotei is usually depicted with a large belly and wide grin. Fittingly, his name is written in Japanese script in the gourd-shaped figures on the mother’s checkered apron. The village scene framed with a circle links Hotei at dusk with other prints in the series that feature similar landscapes.

— Contributed by Frankie DiCiaccio (School of Communication, 2012)

Block Collection Spotlight invites a closer look at objects in the Block Museum permanent collection from students, staff, faculty, and museum audiences.

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