Utagawa Toyokuni III (Utagawa Kunisada), ‘Comparisons for Thirty-Six Selected Poems: Poem by Ki no Tsurayuki, Actor Nakamura Nakazo I as Otomo Kuronushi, disguised as the gatekeeper Sekibei’, 1852, Scholten Japanese Art

signed Toyokuni ga within the artist's Toshidama cartouche, the series title at upper right with poem cartouche, with publisher's seal Kichi, Isekane (Iseya Kanekichi), carver's seal Hori Take (Yokokawa Takejiro), censor's seals Hama and Magome, and date seal Ne-kyu (year of the rat [1852], 9th month)

oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 10 1/4 in., 37.3 by 26 cm

The actor Nakamura Nakazo I (1768-1798) is in the role of the evil Otomo Kuronushi disguised as gatekeeper Sekibei and plotting to chop down a sacred cherry tree, from the dance drama (shosagoto) titled Seki no to or Tsumoru koi yuki seki no to (Love at the Snow-Covered Barrier Gate).

The poem is by Ki no Tsurayuki:
Sakura chiru
ko no shita kaze wa
samukarade
sora nishirarenu
yuki zo furikeru

No chill in the wind
blowing under cherry trees
where blossoms scatter -
yet we see a fall of snow
unknown to the firmament.

Series: Comparisons for Thirty-Six Selected Poems

Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art

Publisher: Iseya Kanekichi

Helen Craig McCullough, Brocade by Night: a Kokin Wakashua and the Court Style in Japanese Classical Poetry, 1985, p. 514
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession nos. 11.42686 and 11.36779.38

About Utagawa Toyokuni III (Utagawa Kunisada)