Kuniyoshi: Beauties and Prince Genji Taking Shelter from the Rain (Yadorigi)

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 国芳
Title: The Element Wood ("Ki") and Yadorigi from the 49th Chapter of the Tale of Genji

Series: Visual Parody of the Five Elements 見たて五行(Mitate go gyô)
Date: 1851-52

Prince Genji is wearing resplendent robes, standing before the trunk of a large tree that is sheltering the group from the rain; he is surrounded by beautiful women, two of whom kneel down before him. This series pairs the five natural elements with chapters from the Tale of Genji. Here the element of wood is paired with chapter Yadorigi. Yadorigi is the 49th Chapter, and the title of Yadorigi was taken as a pun on this word, which can mean both “Ivy” and “once stayed”, and also perhaps “taking shelter”, and refers to a famous waka  poem. This scene must relate to the incredibly popular Rustic  Genji novel that was written between 1829-1842, which created its own Genji craze within the ukiyo-e genre. As Andreas Marks writes “The serial devices employed for Genji prints were known historically in ukiyo-e in the illustration of beautiful women, and the addition  of the amorous figure of Mitsuuji [Rustic Genji] infused new life into an established compositional canon. Accompanying the portrayal of beautiful women was the inclusion of nature and nature settings...” (page 70 of the reference given below).  The kneeling women at right seem to be supplicating him; perhaps they are delivering a message from someone at the imperial court. We see court attendants running towards the group with urgency, so we may guess that the women wearing the yellow robes as disguises must be on the lam.  Genji seems to be on an outing with the two women at left, who are looking back towards the newcomers. We may guess that the mitate, or humorous comparison, is that they are taking shelter (yadorigi) beneath this spreading tree (ki) from the rain shower. This scene is subtitled “Ki” (Wood) from the series Visual Parody (Mitate) of the Five Elements. This work is stunningly printed on luxurious paper, and there is a transparent shiny pattern on the red of Genji’s robes and an extra, luxurious sheen given to the purple on the robes as well.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: 38 x 75 cm
Publisher: Sano-ya Kihei
Seal: Yoshi kiri
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga