08 September 2010

Medical Woodblock Prints

Chasing Measles Away - Utagawa, 1862
This tidbit came to me yesterday through Beth Cullom on Twitter (via Tokyo-based web site Pink Tentacle). The University of California San Francisco has an online gallery of 400 woodblock prints on health-related themes. Very intriguing images for me, given how I love all that sciency-stuff in my art.

A lot of the pieces, 80 in all, deal with the treatment and prevention of three contagious diseases -- smallpox, measles and cholera. A number of these types of prints show Buddhist or Shinto dieties intervening to prevent or cure the disease, such as the one below which is described as a talisman to ward off smallpox.
Talisman to Ward Off Smallpox: Daruma, Momotaro and Shoki, 1849
There are three or four of these smallpox prints in the collection, all executed in red ink. The red ink gave me a little chill, because when I created my Ten Little Nine Little Indians print about smallpox I used red to make the smallpox virus that "wraps" the Indian. There must be something red about smallpox. But then again, maybe there's just something red about the deity called Daruma.

A number of the prints also contain maps and depictions of foreigners because foreigners were thought to be carriers of disease. This is indeed sometimes the case, as happened in Colonial America when the native peoples were decimated by European diseases.

At any rate, I wouldn't mind having a fierce Daruma to protect me from disease.


d. moll, l.ac. said...

I'd read about the red ink talismans but had never seen one. Thanks!

MaRegina said...

amazing!!! I loved it!


Pistoles Press said...

Cool, Annie! Thanks for sharing!