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Harunobu

Suzuki Harunobu

ca. 1724-70

Seven Komachi in Fashionable Disguise: Komachi on the Way
(Furyu Yatsushi Nana Komachi: Kayoi Komachi)

two courtesans on a veranda, one holds and uchiwa fan and a long tobacco pipe, the other sits on the porch edge revealing a bit of her ankle; the square cartouche above with a man holding an umbrella approaches the Yoshiwara by a raised path; unsigned, ca. 1766-67

hosoban 12 1/4 by 5 3/8 in., 31.1 by 13.5 cm

Ono no Komachi (ca. 825-900), one of the Six Immortal Poets, was renowned for her poetry skills as much as her great beauty, and her prideful scorn towards any would-be suitors in her youth. A collection of seven episodes from her life, the Nanakomachi, were a favorite theme in plays and ukiyo-e, first appearing in the 14th century as No plays written by Zeami (1363-1443) and Kan'ami (1333-84).

The cartouche illustrates Fukakusa, a character from the No play of the Kayoi Komachi episode upon which the print is based, struggling on the way to keep his rendezvous with Komachi.

Instead of referencing the poem from the play, Harunobu elevates the status of the print by referencing the classical source, the poem from theKokinshu XV, no. 761:

akatsuki no
shiji no hanegaki
momo hagaki
kimi ga konu you wa
ware zo kazu kaku


In the early dawn,
preening and wing-claps of a hundred flocking snipe
on the night you failed to come
it was I who counted them

The poem from the play is very similar:

akatsuki no
shiji no hashigaki
momo yo kaki
kimi ga konu yo wa
ware zo kazu kaku


In the early dawn
you marked up a hundred nights
on the mounting block-
but the night you failed to come,
it was I who counted that

References:
David Waterhouse, Harunobu and His Age, 1964, no. 22 (translations)
Margaret O. Gentles, The Clarence Buckingham Collection of Japanese Prints, Vol. II, 1965, p. 65-66
Chiba City Museum of Art, Suzuki Harunobu, 2002, p. 37, cat. 19
Spaulding Collection, Museum of Fine Arts Boston (mfa.org), accession no. 21.4970

price: Sold

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