We know Mary Howitt’s poem made its way into Lewis Carroll’s Lobster Quadrille, one of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but could it have ever reached Japan? It was written in 1829, and I would date this Edo painted-tortoiseshell set to 1850.
I fell in love with it because the painting reminded me of the poem: a drama of life and death by false flattery. The comb artist added a disinterested cat on the front of the kushi.
“Sweet creature!” said the Spider, “you’re witty and you’re wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
“So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour — but she ne’er came out again!”