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Katsushika Hokusai, 1760-1849
The Hundred Poems [By the Hundred Poets] as Told by the Nurse: Sojo Henjo
(Hyakunin isshu uba ga etoki: Sojo Henjo)

courtly dancers perform on a raised platform beneath blossoming cherry trees; signed zen Hokusai Manji, with publisherís seal Eijudoof Iseya Sanjiro and censorís kiwame seal, ca. 1835-6.
oban yoko-e 10 1/4 by 15 in., 26 by 38 cm
The poem is by Sojo Henjo (Yoshimine no Munesada, 810-850), a first cousin of Emperor Nimmyo who became a monk, taking the name Henjo, and later became a bishop (sojo). The poem dates from his years as a courtier.

Kumo no Kayoiji
Fuji-toji yo
Otome no sugata
Shibashi todomen

O ye winds of Heaven
In the paths among the clouds
Blow, and close the ways
that we may these virgin forms
Yet a little while detain

The poem seems to refer to an autumn rice harvest festival which was celebrated in the courts with a dance performed by unmarried daughters of the nobility. Munesada likens the dancers to angels, who can only fly through cloudless skies, willing that the clouds close the skies and keep the lovely dancers here on earth a little longer. While the palette of the print is autumnal, the trees have been colored the pink of cherry blossoms, perhaps an example of misinterpretation which can be attributed to the nurse.
Peter Morse, Hokusai: One Hundred Poets, 1989, pp. 38-39, no. 12
Seiji Nagata, Hokusai: Genius of the Japanese Ukiyo-e, 1995, p. 54, no. 51
Katherine Martin, Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part One, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2005, no. 32
price: $ 22,000