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Royalty and Rulers

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Chikanobu Yoshu, Japanese, (1838–1912)
Emperor and Empress Watch Court Dancers, September 1881
Ink on Paper
14 5/16 in. x 28 3/16 in. (36.35 cm x 71.6 cm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2003.1.78

Alternate Title: Hana no shikicho no hitofushi

Two text banners are printed in the upper right of the triptych; three text banners are printed in the center of the left edge of the triptych.

Colored ink woodblock print; triptych.

Object Description
The emperor, empress and five court ladies at right observe a traditional shirabyoshi dancer. While the imperial couple sit in chairs at a table, their attendants kneel on the carpeted verandah. Also on the porch is an enormous flower arrangement in a woven basket on a cart with black lacquered wheels. Within a purple draped dance pavilion set in a garden, a female music ensemble plays (from left to right) a lute (biwa), a reed pipe mouth organ (kan-sho), a horizontal flute (yokofue), a double skin barrel drum (kakko), a double skin framed drum on a stand (tsuridaiko) and a set of bamboo reed pan pipes (sho). The graceful female dancer wears a man's courtier cap (tate-eboshi), red trouser-like divided skirts (hakama), and a long curved sword, and carries a painted fan (kawahori). This type of slow stylized dance dates back to the end of the Heian Period (11th century) and was popular at court and then later incorporated into the noh theater tradition. By depicting the royal couple enjoying this performance, the artist suggests the Meiji Emperor's continuing support for such traditional court dances and music.

Among the text panels at far left are the usual cartouches with the publisher's name and address, the designer's name and address and the issue date, but on this print the yellow panel to the right of the sho indicates the shopname of the print dealer, an unusual bit of information.

For more information, please refer to the Chikanobu exhibition catalogue.


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