Kunisada: Hatsune, Scene of the First Warbler, from the Inaka Genji
Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)
Title: Lady Murasaki, young Lady Akashi and Genji
Lady Murasaki carries an incense bowl, right, while at center we see Genji comforting the young Lady Akashi. The huge success of the Rustic Genji serialized novel by Ryutei Tanehiko (published between 1829-1832) created a craze of “Genji Pictures”, most of them designed by Kunisada.
Identified by the Genji incense symbol marked on the incense bowl which the standing lady carries on the right sheet, this scene must be Hatsune, the First Warbler, from the thirty-third book of “Nise-murasaki inaka Genji“. It was the New Year holiday for Genji who was turning thirty-six. The title was named after the waka poem that Lady Akashi sent to her daughter the young Lady Akashi, who was separated from her, “I am longing to hear the song of the first warbler after waiting for her growth for a long time“. At the age of eight the young Akashi replied to her mother that she has never forgotten her.
The setting of this chapter in the novel is the Rokujo estate. To usher in the New Year, the estate was beautifully decorated as if it were the Pure Land. Genji exchanged poems with Lady Murasaki to celebrate the occasion. The young Lady Akashi, who had been growing up under Lady Murasaki, received a gift and a poem from her birth mother Lady Akashi. Genji feels sorry for the elder lady ,who is not able to even see her own daughter. In the evening Genji goes over to Hanachirusato, Tamakazura and Lady Akashi to see them in the fine clothes that he had given them for this occasion. He stayed with Lady Akashi that night.
In this triptych, in the center sheet, Genji seems to comfort the young Akashi, who puts her sleeve near her mouth, a gesture of sadness. Her kimono has design of waves with umi-no-sachi, marine products, symbolizing the strait of Akashi. Also, the interior decorations indicates the seaside setting of Akashi. The seated Tamakazura, next to the cherry blossoms screen, left, is staring at two combs on the floor. Behind her the standing lamp with the design of gourds has many kanzashi hair pin decorations. She wears a kimono with designs of Tamakazura, a Japanese creeping vine and an asa-no-ha hemp leave star design in white on red over it. On the right sheet Lady Murasaki is bringing the incense bowl with the Genji incense symbol adorning it. She had brought up the young Akashi upon the request of Genji, who thought it is would be better for the young Akashi for her future. Lady Murasaki wears kimono with phoenix designs and her obi sash in an asa-no-ha hemp leaf star design in blue on black.Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: ôban triptych (38.2 x 76.8 cm)
Signature: Toyokuni ga