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Utagawa Kunisada (aka Toyokuni III), Japanese, (1786–1864)
Parroting Another's Words, c. 1833-1842
Ink on Paper
14 3/4 in. x 10 1/8 in. (374.65 mm x 257.18 mm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Edo (Japan, 1615-1868)
Credit Line: Scripps College, Claremont, CA
Accession Number: 80.2.22

Alternate Title: Tosei mitate nan komachi: Omu
Full Title: Modern Parody of the Seven Komachis: Parroting Another's Words

Signed: Kochoro Kunisada ga. Censor's seal: Kiwame.

Colored ink on paper; woodblock print.

Object Description
Edo period color woodblock print with an image of a woman reading a scroll.

Ono no Komachi is shown with her stationary box and several scrolls of paper, one of which contains a poem from the Retired Emperor Yozei. He had heard that Komachi had fallen on hard times lately and wanted her to know he still recalled those glorious days when she was at his court. Knowing that she must respond quickly to his letter, she replies (II) by repeating his verse (I) but changing one word so that the whole tone of the poem is modified:

     I    II
     In the cloudland of Court  -  In the cloudland of Court
     in the far-off days of old  -  in the far-off days of old,
     yet still unchanging  -  yet still unchanging
     was not life enchanting there -  how enchanting life was there
     within the jeweled curtain? - within the jeweled curtain?
transl. by Roy E. Teele

Only a truly outstanding poet, it was thought, could successfully "parrot" another's words.

Kunisada has presented his Komachi as if she was a modern woman responding to a lover's letter. However this contemporary Komachi is wearing a kimono with the Genjiko design that links her visually with the 10th century hero of the Tale of Genji.

Arita-ya Seiemon seal.

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