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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Peonies and Chrysanthemums for the Sakuragawa Circle (Sakuragawa-ren kiku botan)
Date: commissioned for a New Year, ca. 1828
Medium: Two color woodblock prints
Dimensions: Part a: 8 3/16 × 7 1/2 inches (20.8 × 19.1 cm) Part b: 8 1/8 × 7 3/8 inches (20.6 × 18.7 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Joanna Haab Schoff, Class of 1955
Object Number: 2011.017.034 a,b
Label Text: Left sheet:

Hana musume
Sangoku ichi wo
Hatsuyume ni
Miruya takane no

Yuki no yuiwata
This flowerymaiden
The best in the three countries
Snow on the high peak of her
Cotton hair ribbons
Seen in the year’s first dream
—Jakurindo ¯Shibazumi

Ju ¯hachiko ¯no
Waka midori
Maikono hama no
Dayu ¯osobiki

In the spring mist
The fresh green of
The “eighteen lord”pine
The courtesan from MaikoBay
Is freed at last
—Jakuryu ¯do ¯Shibanari

Right sheet:

Mono kumoame ni
Nuregami no
Yanagi wa ume to
Narabu sekitori

Calm things
Washed in the rain clouds
The willow,with its hair wet
Stands alongside the plum
As its mighty equal in rank
—Yanagi no Itomaru

Nodoka naru
Haru no ni cho ¯no
Maigami ya
Sumire tambo no
Hanazumo ¯nimo

In the peaceful fields of
Springtime, the butterfly’s
In a paddy with violets
The flowersare doing sumo
—Sakuragawa Jihinari

This diptych depicts Ichikawa Danju-ro-VII as the sumo wrestler Nuregami Cho-goro- and Segawa Kikunojo- as the courtesan Azuma from the popular play Futatsu Cho ¯cho ¯ Kuruwa Nikki (Two Butterflies: A Diary of the Pleasure Quarters), first staged as a puppet play in 1749, and extremely popular in later kabuki, with a number of performances in the 1820s. The play seems to have been based on an actual event, in which a sumo wrestler killed a samurai in a fight, and the title on a pun on the names of the two wrestlers in the play, both of which include cho ¯(homophonous with “butterfly”). The complex plot has Cho-goro -attempting to help ransom Azuma for his patron, Yogoro-, against his rival, who is the patron of another sumo wrestler, Cho-kichi. Ultimately, in a fight between the patrons and their henchmen, Cho-goro- kills four men, and must flee Edo, but is spared prosecution by some surprising plot twists.

This image shows the wrestler, in the outline of a giant peony, an alternative crest (kaemon) for Danju-ro-, with the silhouette of a bat overhead. He looks sternly, mouth downturned, across to Azuma in the right sheet, who appears in an inset shaped like a chrysanthemum (kiku), the crest of Kikunojo-, with a name in Harima, famed for its seaside pines, but maiko (“dancing girl”) also refers to an apprentice geisha. Azuma, by contrast, was a matsu no dayu ¯ (“Pine Lady”), the highest rank of courtesan, as the pointed use of dayu ¯ in the final line emphasizes, lending further connotations to nebiki. The pine itself is referred to here obliquely, by describing the character used to write it, which can be parsed as “eighteen lords.” The poems on the left sheet play with the name of the wrestler, nuregami, literally meaning “wet hair” and referring to the slicked-back style of a sumo wrestler, but here seasonally connected to spring rain. Both verses on this sheet include references to sumo, the first with the high rank of sekitori, the second with hanazumo ¯,or a wrestling match (competition) between the flowers.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.