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Johnson Collection of Japanese Prints

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Torii Kiyonaga, Japanese, (1752–1815)
Komachi at Sekidera, 1780
Ink on Paper
6 1/16 in. x 8 11/16 in. (15.4 cm x 22.07 cm)


Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Creation Place: Asia, Japan
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. J. Stanley Johnson
Accession Number: 2000.1.1

Marks
Signed Kiyonaga.

Medium
Colored ink on paper; woodblock print. Printed with yellow, orange and green color; chuban tate-e.

Object Description
Late 18th century Japanese color woodblock print of a young woman standing on a porch beside an iris pond, and a young boy drying tea on a brazier. Below is a poem attributed to Nishimura. Komachi is shown as an expensive 18th century courtesan, wrapped in elegant silk robes and beautifully coifed. She seems lost in thought as she gazes into the pond garden, and above her are written the words of a poem:

     Wabinureba  - In this forlorn state
     Mi o ukikusa no - I find this life dreary, indeed:
     Ne o taete - if a stream beckoned,
     Sasou mizu araba  - I would gladly cut my roots
     Inamu to zo omou  -  and float away like duckweed.
     Kokinshu 938  transl. by Helen C. McCullough

This famous 9th c. poem was included in the 15th c. noh drama "Komachi at Sekidera" in which an older Komachi recalls how unfaithful had been her lovers and even her husband. The Buddhist moral of this play was to emphasize how transient are worldly alliances.

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