Depravity of Monk Seigen

Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892

Picture of the Depravity of Monk Seigen
(Seigen daraku no zu)

with metallic printing on the hair ornaments, burnishing on the black areas and a dusting of mica on the lower sheet, signed Yoshitoshi, with artist's seal Yoshitoshi, and publisher's seal Hakkosha Kanda-ku Kajicho go-banchi Hasegawa Tsunejiro (Shimizuya Tsunejiro, ca. 1842-1904), ca. 1889

oban tate-e vertical diptych 29 1/2 by 10 3/8 in., 74.9 by 26.2 cm

Seigen and Sakura-hime plays portray a story of a hopeless love affair between the Priest Seigen of the Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto and the beautiful Sakura-hime (Princess Sakura). In some versions, she is his long-deceased lover who is reincarnated in a young priest named Shiragiku. In others, they reverse roles: Shiragiku is the dead lover reborn as Sakura-hime. Regardless, Seigen's lust always gets the better of him, and tends to end with his dismissal from the temple, his own death, and the death of his lovers. The 'depraved' priest is depicted here clutching the princess' robe, identifiable by its cherry-blossom motif, which conjures up the memory of the beauty. The imagined Sakura-hime's robe is printed with a darker oxidized mercuric pigment, emphasizing her ethereal nature.

Notable examples of such plays include The Scarlet Princess of Edo (Sakura-hime Azuma Bunsho) written by Tsuruya Nanboku in 1817. An adapted version of Seigen's tale changed the priest's name to Sogen and his lover's name to Orikoto-hime in the play Falling Cherry Blossoms (Hanafubuki), depicted by Yoshitoshi in 1890 for the series Snow, Moon, and Flowers (Setsugekka no uchi).

References:
Keyes 1983, p. 487, no. 508
Segi 1985, p. 73, no. 93
Ota Memorial Museum of Art 2012, p. 137, no. 203
Iwakiri 2014, p. 148, no. 223

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