Toyokuni I: The Poetess Ono no Komachi Praying For Rain 今やう娘七小町 雨こひ小ま (SOLD)ち

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Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I 豊国 (1769-1825)
Title: Mitate of The Poetess Ono no Komachi  Praying For Rain 今やう娘七小町 雨こひ小まち
Date: ca. 1812

We see an elegant beauty focused on a letter as she walks in high geta in light rain. The design creates a clever comparison with Ono no Komachi–a celebrated poet of the Heian (9th c.) court, as well as a woman of legendary beauty. The theme of “Seven Komachi“ relates to the famous nana (seven) legendary acts of Komachi (ca. 825-ca. 900), and variations on this theme were used as inspiration by ukiyo-e artists since the time of Harunobu. 

Here we see an early 19th century beauty holding her partly open umbrella against the rain, focused on the letter she holds in her hand. Although it is not open, we can sense the importance of the letter, which must surely be a love letter. The fugitive purple on her umbrella is completely unfaded, and the light blue on the flowing stream on the lower part of her kimono is also extant. The orange lead (tan) on the cartouche has oxidized, and flowers surround the the cartouche in a springtime burst of pink.

The title should read Amagoi Komachi,  but has been modified to Makoi Komachi, in a play on words. The famous poem is found in the red cartouche in the upper right corner and reads as follows: kotowari ya / hi no moto nareba / teri mo sen / saritote wa mata / ama ga shita towa. In this poem, Komachi asked the gods for rain using a pun on the term sky, which can also be read as ame, rain in Japanese.  

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 first waka poem may be roughly translated as follows:  “If the Goddess sees this drought, She would open the gate of a heavenly river”. The seven scenes are “Shimizu Komachi“, ”amagoi Komachi”, “ómu Komachi“,"sóshi-arai Komachi“, “Sekimachi Komach“,  “kayoi Komachi“, and “sotoba Komachi“. Each scene is normally accompanied by one of her Waka poems.

The Balboa Museum example has unfortunately suffered much fading, unlike this example. Scarce. The MFA holds all seven designs in their collection; this is the finest of the series.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition. Untrimmed and unbacked. Minor wrinkle and tiny area of wormage.
Dimensions: ôban 38.7 x 25.9 cm
Publisher: Yamatoya Jubei
Signature: Toyokuni ga