Kunisada: Mitate of Praying for Rain Komachi (SOLD)

  • Sold.

Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)
Title: Parody of Ama-goi, Praying for Rain (Mitate amagoi)
Series: Modern Seven Komachi (Tosei nana komachi)
Date: 1857


An actor is seated on a patterned platform above the water. He holds two brushes in his hand, and is painting a terrific wave design on a fan. Before him are the tools for painting, including saucers with pigments and a sumi block and brushes. Above  is a streak of lightning. The title of the series comes from the seven episodes of Ono no Komachi in the Heian Period.

The series title “Seven Komachi“ relates to the famous nana (seven) legendary acts of Komachi (Ono-no Komachi; ca. 825-ca. 900), the celebrated poetess of the Heian Period. This series gives a spin on each of the seven legends related to Komachi, who was also known as a matchless beauty. The seven scenes are “Shimizu Komachi“, ”amagoi Komachi”, “ómu Komachi“,"sóshi-arai Komachi“, “Sekimachi Komachi“,  “kayoi Komachi“, and “sotoba Komachi“. Each scene is normally accompanied by one of her Waka poems.

The scenes of the series are based on the legendary story and place contemporary Kabuki actors in the scene.  The legend “Amagoi Komachi”(Parody of Wishing the Rain to Fall) goes like this: When Komachi wrote this waka poem “Chihaya furu, kami mo mimasaba, tachisawagi,  amano togahano,  higuchi aketamae“ (or sometimes quotes her other poem “Kotohariya, hinomoto nareba,  terimosemesari,  toteha mata,  amega shita toha“) at Shinsen-en garden in the Heian Palace during a drought, it started to rain heavily, rewarding her high virtue.

The waka poem “Chihaya furu, kami mo mimasaba, tachisawagi,  amano togahano,  higuchi aketamae“ is literally translated as follows: If the Goddess sees this drought, She would open the gate of a heavenly river”. This poem refers to the tale of Amaterasu Ómikami in “Koji-ki“ (the oldest chronicle, from ca. 712) Amaterasu Ómikami, the Sun Goddess of Yamato-no-kuni (Japan) hid herself in a cave with a heavy door of rock blocking the entrance due to her brother’s wrong doings. To persuade her to come out of the cave, heavenly female messengers exposed their breasts, to which men were attracted and gathered, resulting in a merry banquet with music. To this noise outside Amaterasu Ómikami became curious and opened the door of her hidden cave a little bit. Then strong men drew open the door and Yamato-no-kuni (Japan) was opened to the sun light.

Here we see the scene of a summer night at the Ôgawa River: as soon as this actor painted a picture of a wave and rain clouds, the thunder started to rumble and rain started to fall. The actor turns his head towards the sky and stops his brush in the midst of painting as a bolt of lightning streaks against the sky. Kunisada depicts the moment of immediacy. The actor wears elegant summer kimono, not yukata which were worn by townsmen in Edo. It has a design of flying butterfly variation. He sits in front of his painting sets, a brush stand with many brushes, a black stone suzuri with a stick of black sumi, a water bowl with nadeshiko flower pattern and four colors. At his side are a pack of furoshiki and more folding fans. He, sitting on a mat with modern checked pattern and uses candle light, which was originally imported from China in the 8th century but was still expensive in the 19th century and was only affordable by the wealthy.

Condition and printing are exceptional, as if the first print from the blocks and printed yesterday.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. Mint. 
Dimensions: ôban (37.8 x 25.8 cm)
Publisher: Ebisuya Shoshichi
Seal: Aratame and date seal (6th month of Snake Year)
Signature: Toyokuni ga