Seizan: Surimono of Monkeys Bringing Food to Nakatada

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Artist: Mimura Seizan (?-1858)
Title: Surimono of Monkeys Bringing Food Offerings to Nakatada
Date: ca. 1824

Magical scene of the boy Nakatada and his mother playing the koto in their home within a hollowed-out cryptomeria tree. Their playing was so beautiful that wild animals protected them and even made offerings of food. Here we see a troupe of monkeys bringing food, a line of them bearing wrapped bundles at lower right. Inside we see one monkey sitting to listen after presenting his offerings. Nakatada was the (secret) son of Fujiwara no Kanemasa, and his grandfather was Toshikage, who had brought back a special koto from China and had taught his daughter to play it. We may assume that this surimono was issued in the Monkey year, as the monkeys are so prominent in the design. Roger Keyes translated the poems:

“Spring comes, mist draws across the sky and in the volume about Toshikage, the koto is gently played for the first time”--Tetsunoya Omon

“The fascinating spring tale of a person who dwelt in a tree and played the koto so that it sounded like a warbler” --Enritsuen Chiei

Provenance: Huguette Beres (seal verso). With blindprinting and silver pigments.

Condition: Very good impression, color and condition. Printed on textured paper; light stain bottom and minor creasing.

Dimensions: shikishiban (21.6 x 18.9 cm)
Signature: Unsigned, as usual

Literature: Roger Keyes “The Art of Surimono in the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin”, 1985, vol II, number 260.