Ko Sukoku screen front

Ko Sukoku screen back

Ko Sukoku, (1730-1804)

Soga no Goro and Kobayashi Asahina

double-sided tsuitate (standing screen), ink, color and gold leaf on silk; the two heroes enacting the famous 'armor-tugging scene' the reverse with a woven basket of shells, a blossoming peach branch and a red camellia; signed Konen nanajunisai Toryuo Ko Sukoku zu (This year I am 72..design by old man Ko Sukoku) with square seal Sukoku ga no in and round seal Toryuo, and signed on reverse, Konen nanajuni sai, Ko Sukoku ga (This year I am 72..drawn by Ko Sukoku),1802

painting: 50 by 55 cm
screen: 64 by 65 cm

The subject of this screen is the familiar kusazuribiki ('armor-tugging') scene, featuring the rash young Soga no Goro and the warrior Kobayashi Asahina, a friend of the brothers. This famous scene is a highlight of Soga Monogatari plays, traditionally performed in Edo at New Year's. In addition, the intense honor and bravery of Goro are associated with Boy's Day themes. Perhaps the peach blossoms on the reverse with the basket of shells are contrarily suggestive of Girl's Day.

Ko Sukoku was a follower of Hanabusa Itcho (1652-1724), a leading genre painter who was famously exiled in 1698 to the island of Miyakejima, according to legend, as punishment for a parody of the Shogun's favorite concubine. That intriguing composition, of a shirabyoshi dancer seated in an Asazuma boat under a willow and the moon, was included in ehon illustrating Hanabusa's collected works and was subsequently copied frequently in 18th and 19th century ukiyo-e, including an monumental example in this exhibition by Watanabe Seitei (1851-1918).


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site last updated
October 28, 2021

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475