The volcanic Mount Fuji was considered a sacred mountain and was visited mostly by pilgrims until the eighteenth century, when more tourists made their way to, and often up, the mountain. Visible from Edo (modern-day Tokyo), the awe-inspiring Fuji was gradually adopted as a symbol of civic pride by its residents. Popular print designers such as Katsushika Hokusai (whose work featuring Mt. Fuji is also on view in this gallery) exploited the affection for the mountain in their art.
Here, the painter Hanabusa Itchô combines an almost iconic view of Fuji with classical poetic emblems of late autumn—a crescent moon, a lone male deer, and red autumn leaves— to create a scene of quiet melancholy.
In this melancholy image, a lone male deer stands among red autumn leaves in a scene dimly lit by a crescent moon. It is likely that Itchō produced this image with a celebrated eighth-century poem by Sarumaru in mind, though he located the scene in the mountains visible from Edo, including Mount Fuji:
When I hear the voice
of the stag crying for his mate
stepping through the fallen leaves
deep in the mountains—then is the time that autumn is saddest.
(translation by Joshua S. Mostow)