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Ponies with Butterfly, by Hokusai

In his early seventies, at a time when he was publishing many landscape prints, Hokusai was doing excellent flower-and-bird prints as well. Of the present series of oban polychrome prints, the existence of ten has been confirmed, all of them good works with a modern, innovative feeling. The example shown here has a bold, original composition, with its enormous peony blooms occupying most of the picture and a butterfly attractively disposed in the remaining space. It is typical of Hokusai that he also manage to include in his picture the pleasant breeze that, though invisible, shakes both the flowers and the butterfly. It seems likely that the combination of peonnies and butterfly is an allusion the ancient Chinese story "The Butterfly Dream," associated with philosopher Zhuang-zi.