Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)


Sekidera Komachi
(Sekidera Komachi)

signed Oju Kunisada ga, publisher's seal Waka (Wakasaya Yoichi of Jakurindo), censor's seal kiwame, ca. 1822

oban tate-e 14 3/4 by 9 7/8 in., 37.4 by 25.2 cm

A young woman seated before a dresser gazes into a small hand mirror while expertly positioning a larger mirror behind her head in order to check her Shimada-style coiffure. She wears a light blue dressing gown decorated with dark blue geese in flight over her kimono decorated with an auspicious motif of roundels of minogame (turtles of longevity) and Takarabune (treasure ship of the Lucky Gods) contrasting with a rose-colored underrobe with a floral cherry blossom pattern. Her collars are pulled open at the neckline to facilitate fixing her hair and make-up, and the outer-wrapper of a packet in the foreground is recognizable as that of Bien Senjoko face powder, a frequent sponsor of beauty prints by Kunisada and his contemporaries.

The series title, Seven Episodes of Komachi of the Yoshiwara (Yoshiwara nana Komachi), refers to a group of seven Noh plays portraying apocryphal incidents in the life of Ono no Komachi (ca. 825-900), one of the Six Immortal Poets (Rokkasen). The print title, Sekidera Komachi, is the name of the play written by Zeami Motokiyo (1363- 1443) which portrays the lonely poetess at the end of her life. In the play, through a conversation with the priest of the Sekidera Temple, Komachi expresses her deep regret of her vanity and the prideful scorn she displayed towards the many would-be suitors of her youth.

Kunisada appears to have found inspiration for this design in a print designed by his teacher, Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825), which was published in circa 1820. The earlier print (an impression of which is in the collection of the British Museum) promotes a sponsor in a similar inset circular cartouche, Matsuzakaya dry goods shop (a prominent purveyor of kimono), and features a beauty wearing a kimono with a very similar pattern of white geese in flight on dark blue ground.

Robert Schaap, Kunisada: Imaging Drama and Beauty, 2016, p. 52, no. 19 ('Parrot Komachi'- another print from this series)
British Museum, registration no. 1948,0410,0.101

(inv. no. 10-4609)

price: $3,400

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Toyokuni I, Sailboats Returning to Matsuzakaya, ca. 1820, British Museum


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site last updated
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