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No. 2, Komachi Praying for Rain
Seven Scenes from the Life of Komachi (Nana Komachi)
二代鳥居清倍筆 『七小町 二』 「雨ごひ小町」
Date: approx. 1735-1740
Object Name: Woodblock print (beni-e)
Materials: Ink with hand-applied color on paper
Dimensions: H. 13 in x W. 6 1/4 in, H. 33 cm x W. 15.9 cm (hosōban)
Credit Line: Gift of the Grabhorn Ukiyo-e Collection
Department: Japanese Art
Collection: Prints And Drawings
Object Number: 2005.100.15
On Display: No

Description

Label:

The Nana Komachi series portrays seven legends from the life of the celebrated ninth-century poet Ono Komachi. In this scene, titled Amagoi Komachi, or Komachi praying for rain, she stands with three male attendants beside a pond in the Shinsen’en garden at the Heian imperial palace. Slanting rain pours from the sky in response to a prayer Komachi offers in the form of a poem. The verse is inscribed in the cloud-shaped cartouche above:

Kotowari ya
hi no moto nareba
teri mo seme
sari tote wa mata
ame ga shita to wa

True indeed
That the sun should shine
This being “Japan: Origin of the Sun”
Yet are we not also
"beneath the heavens—beneath the rain?"

In the poem, the term ama ga shita, “under heaven,” cleverly pivots to a second meaning, “under rain” through the homophones ama (heaven) and ame (rain); to emphasize this point, the pronunciation “ame” (rain) is printed next to the character for heaven, ama. On an island in the pond stands a shrine to the female dragon deity Zennyo Ryūō, whose divine help Komachi enlists in ending the drought.

The legend of Komachi, a renowned beauty, became the subject of a cycle of seven Noh plays in the medieval period. As the Nana Komachi theme was absorbed into Edo popular culture, several renowned beauties of the period took her name as a sobriquet. In contrast to other reworkings in mitate form, Kiyomasu takes a classicizing approach based loosely on the style of Tosa school artists affiliated with the imperial court. This is the only known impression of this print, luxurious in its use of vibrant hand-applied colors, mist bands created by blowing pigment across a stencil, and rocks and other details picked out in shiny black ink mixed with glue. 


More Information

Signature/Seal: Signature: 絵師鳥居清倍筆 Eshi Torii Kiyomasu hitsu

Collector’s seal: 白爾叟 Hakujisō or Berusō? (verso)
Marks: Publisher’s mark: ゑ 元濱町伊賀屋板 E, Motohama-chō Igaya han
Exhibition History: “The Printer’s Eye: Ukiyo-e from the Grabhorn Collection”, Asian Art Museum, 2/20/15-5/10/15
Label:

The Nana Komachi series portrays seven legends from the life of the celebrated ninth-century poet Ono Komachi. In this scene, titled Amagoi Komachi, or Komachi praying for rain, she stands with three male attendants beside a pond in the Shinsen’en garden at the Heian imperial palace. Slanting rain pours from the sky in response to a prayer Komachi offers in the form of a poem. The verse is inscribed in the cloud-shaped cartouche above:

Kotowari ya
hi no moto nareba
teri mo seme
sari tote wa mata
ame ga shita to wa

True indeed
That the sun should shine
This being “Japan: Origin of the Sun”
Yet are we not also
"beneath the heavens—beneath the rain?"

In the poem, the term ama ga shita, “under heaven,” cleverly pivots to a second meaning, “under rain” through the homophones ama (heaven) and ame (rain); to emphasize this point, the pronunciation “ame” (rain) is printed next to the character for heaven, ama. On an island in the pond stands a shrine to the female dragon deity Zennyo Ryūō, whose divine help Komachi enlists in ending the drought.

The legend of Komachi, a renowned beauty, became the subject of a cycle of seven Noh plays in the medieval period. As the Nana Komachi theme was absorbed into Edo popular culture, several renowned beauties of the period took her name as a sobriquet. In contrast to other reworkings in mitate form, Kiyomasu takes a classicizing approach based loosely on the style of Tosa school artists affiliated with the imperial court. This is the only known impression of this print, luxurious in its use of vibrant hand-applied colors, mist bands created by blowing pigment across a stencil, and rocks and other details picked out in shiny black ink mixed with glue. 


Signature/Seal: Signature: 絵師鳥居清倍筆 Eshi Torii Kiyomasu hitsu

Collector’s seal: 白爾叟 Hakujisō or Berusō? (verso)
Marks: Publisher’s mark: ゑ 元濱町伊賀屋板 E, Motohama-chō Igaya han
Exhibition History: “The Printer’s Eye: Ukiyo-e from the Grabhorn Collection”, Asian Art Museum, 2/20/15-5/10/15