Poetess as parrot, actor as poetess

Artist Kuniyoshi presents actor Ichikawa Danjuro VIII representing poetess Ono no Komachi in a legendary act (explanation below from the Fujiarts.com website). It’s intriguing that a male actor portrays a woman writer. Any excuse to use the popular actor helped print sales. As with so many works of Kuniyoshi, layers upon layers of association are wrapped in beautiful imagery. Danjuro VIII is an actor who “parrots” a playwright ‘s words. The actor was a famous beauty, and so was the poetess Komachi. Komachi was a historical figure; Kabuki plays are often based on history.

Parrot: Ichikawa Danjuro VIII

Series; Modern Seven Komachi, 1851

Modern Seven Komachi – Handsome design from an 1851 Kuniyoshi series depicting kabuki actors in scenes associated with the famous ninth-century poetess Ono no Komachi. The subjects are taken from a series of seven Noh plays (Nanakomachi) dealing with legendary events during the beauty’s life. A rarely seen series and an interesting choice for a Kuniyoshi collector.

Parrot: Ichikawa Danjuro VIII – Terrific image of Ichikawa Danjuro VIII sitting on a platform over a river, painting folding fans. He looks over his shoulder with a sly expression, a brush in hand and a portable writing set on the tatami mat next to him. Misty clouds rise form the swirling water, with mountains in the distance. The “parrot” episode refers to a poem of pity that the emperor sent to the elderly Komachi. She changed one word of the verse, completely altering its meaning, and returned it to the emperor, demonstrating her wit even though she was “parroting” his words. A lovely composition with beautiful color and detail, and fine bokashi shading.

Artist – Kuniyoshi (1797 – 1861)

Image Size – 13 3/4″ x 9 1/2″


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