Hishikawa Moronobu
Double page from the illustrated kana booklet Konogoro-gusa

Publisher: (Matsue Sanshirō, Edo) Double page from an illustrated book (kanazōshi) in 2 vols., yoko-e, 16.0 x 26.5 cm; sumizuri-e

Konogoro-gusa ("Grasses of the Present Day") depicts people from diverse social strata and professions: in this case a blind storyteller (kado sekkyō), who is being accompanied by a shamisen player. The text above tells of itinerant singers and storytellers from the province of Ise. On the left an itinerant puppeteer (karaishi), who is linked in the text to Nishinomiya in the province of Settsu.

Provenance: A.Lemp, Zurich (November 1961)

The woman at the left is dressed in the garments of a travelling courtier, and the scene undoubtedly refers to an incident in history or literature, the protagonists portrayed as women in an elegant parody. Most of the prints in this unusual small horizontal format which have survived were from one album with careless kambun inscriptions added with brush, inscriptions that is to say written in Chinese script, but conveying a particularly Japanese meaning.

The only other impression of this print which is known to have survived was from this album. It was owned by Atherton Curtis and is reproduced in Vignier and Inada, Estampes Japonaises Primitives, no. 325, pl. 47. The colouring of the Curtis impression is generally similar, although the logs of the raft are different colours, and the seated woman’s hat is covered with ‘gold dust’, as the metallic powder on hand-coloured prints of this period is often called. The Chinese-style inscription does not identify the subject.

(For another plate from this series, see Okumura Genroku, no. 9.)