Kunisada: Mitate of Washing the Book Komachi

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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)
Title: Mitate soshi arai; Book-washing Mitate Komachi
Series: Modern Seven Komachi (Tosei nana komachi)
Date: 1857

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 designs of this series are based on the legendary seven stories, but are “modernized” by placing contemporary Kabuki actors in the scene. The legend sóshi arai , “Washing the book”, goes like this: There was a courtly poem competition that was scheduled for the next day. Ótomo-no-Kuronushi was a male competitor who was eager to defeat Ono-no Komachi due to her high reputation. He managed to eavesdrop on her reciting her poem (“Makanakuni, nanio tanetote, ukikusa no, namino manimani, oishigeramu“.) He then sneakily added her poem into the classic, ancient poem collection called the “manyó-shú“, and the next day accused her of plagiarizing the poem from the manyo-shu. Komachi simply washed the book in water and the poem he added disappeared, exposing his deception.

     In this scene we see a Kabuki female figure on a boat on the Ó-kawa, (river), washing out a small sake bowl.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. Mint.
Dimensions: ôban (38 x 26 cm)
Publisher: Ebisuya Shoshichi
Seal: Aratame and date seal (6th month of Snake Year)
Signature: Toyokuni ga