Seven Komachi in the Floating World: Komachi on the Way
(Ukiyo nana komachi: Kayoi komachi)
signed Eisen ga with artist's seal Sen, censor's seal Kiwame (approved), and publisher's seal Waka (Wakasaya Yoichi of Jakurindo), 1820s
oban tate-e 14 7/8 by 10 in., 37.7 by 25.4 cm
The series title, Seven Komachi of the Floating World (Ukiyo nana komachi), presents beautifully attired women while alluding to the classical grouping of seven episodes from the life of Ono no Komachi (ca. 825-900). One of the Six Immortal Poets, Komachi was renowned for her poetry skills and great beauty, as well as regretable scorn towards any would-be suitors in her youth. A collection of seven legendary episodes from her life, the Nanakomachi, were a favorite theme in plays and ukiyo-e images. The title of this print, Komachi on the Way (Kayoi komachi), refers to an episode from a famous No play written by Zeami (1363-1443) in which one of her lovers, Fukakusa, depicted in the cartouche at upper left, 'on the way in a boat,' although unseen beneath the umbrella, struggles to keep a rendezvous with Komachi.
Eisen subtly alludes to the beautiful Komachi's youthful pride in her expression which seems almost directed at Fukakusa himself over her right shoulder. She stands in dishabille, her clothing loosely secured by her arms crossed at her waist. Her kimono is decorated with a subtle gradation of purple from her shoulders to very pale grey at the hem where black tortoises symbolizing longevity swim over a pattern of white swirling water. Her black obi with a gold geometric sayagata (interlocking 'manji') pattern has dropped to the ground along with a green and white ikat sash and rose kanoko (fawn spot) sash for her under-robes.
Four of designs from this series are recorded, Soshiarai Komachi (Komachi Washing the Manuscript), Amagoi Komachi (Komachi Praying for Rain), Kayoi Komachi (Komachi On the Way), and Sotoba Komachi (Komachi at the Gravepost.)
Chiba City Museum of Art, Keisai Eisen: Artist of the Floating World, 2012, p. 292; Eisen Nishiki-e Index, no. 325-3
(inv. no. 10-5355)
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