Widow and Widower- Owaka of the Purple Coat
kuchi-e (frontispiece) illustration for the novel Widow and Widower by Hirotsu Ryuro published in vol. 4, no. 14 Bungei Kurabu (popular literary magazine); with artist's seal Keishu, 1899
8 3/8 by 11 1/8 in., 21.3 by 28.1 cm
This frontispiece illustration from the November 1, 1899 of the Bungei Kurabu magazine accompanied the publication of the novel Widow and Widower by Hirotsu Ryuro (1861-1928) who specialized in tales of unusual romantic alliances. The heroine of the tale is Owaka (Known to all as Owaka of the Purple Coat), who has left the licentious life of a tea-house waitress to return to the home of her elder brother, a slow-witted but sincere farmer whose only joy is visiting the grave of his late wife. Owaka has brought her 15 year old lover home with her (more than 10 years her junior) who is innocent and pure of heart, unlike the many seamy deceptive men Owaka has known. As man and wife they cause a local sensation, though the next year the boy dies after a sudden illness. Owaka covers his body with her purple coat, and buries him beside her sister-in-law. From then on brother and sister devote themselves to working side by side in the fields and tending the graves of their departed spouses.
Julia Meech-Pekarik, The World of the Meiji Print, 1986, pp. 218-219, no. 135 (and story summary)
Nanako Yamada, Mokuhan Kuchi-e (Survey of Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints), 2006, p. 291
Honolulu Museum of Art, object no. 27973
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, acquisition no. JP3286 (Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1959)
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