Hokuba: Brush drawing of the poet Ariwara no Narihira
Artist: Teisai Hokuba (1771-1844)
Title: Brush drawing of the poet Ariwara no Narihira
Date: Ca. 1840s
The poet Ariwara no Narihira figures prominently in the classical Heian period work the Tales of Ise (Ise monogatari). The Tales of Ise consists of a combination of poetry and prose, and much of it surrounds a central character that many believe to be Narihira, a Japanese courtier and one of Japan’s “Six Poetry Immortals” (Rokkasen). Here Hokuba has used a classical reference to illustrate his own brand of humor, using Narihira as his subject. Here we see a man who must be Narihira, pointing his finger as if in exposition. His attendant, who appears very small indeed, is clutching his head either in exasperation or amusement. The text reads: “Ise Monogatari ni Daishingûsama nashi”, or “In the Story of Ise there is no Grand [Ise] Shrine” No doubt that the Edo Period audience found this quite amusing, although for the modern reader it seems rather perplexing. From an album of sketches by Hokuba, who was a surimono artist and a pupil of Katsushika Hokusai. Provenance: From the personal collection of Herbert Egenolf. LACMA has 13 drawings from this same album by Hokuba in its collection.