Detail View: The AMICA Library: Chizuka no Fumi no Bosetsu (The Evening Snow of a Thousand Bundles of Love-Letters)

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Name: 
Ippitsusai Buncho
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Dates/Places: 
Japanese; fl. c.1755-1790 Asia,East Asia,Japan
Creator Name-CRT: 
Ippitsusai Buncho
Chizuka no Fumi no Bosetsu (The Evening Snow of a Thousand Bundles of Love-Letters)
Title Type: 
full view
Creation Date: 
c. 1772
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Woodblock print.
Classification Term: 
Creation Place: 
Asia,East Asia,Japan
Chuban; 26.5 x 19.5 cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Art Institute of Chicago
Owner Location: 
Chicago, Illinois, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
The Art Institute of Chicago, The Clarence Buckingham Collection
SIGNATURE: Ippitsusai Buncho gaARTIST'S SEAL: Mori uji
The doomed love affair between the courtesan Ohatsu and the shop clerk Tokubei is the subject of one of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's most famous love-suicide plays, Sonezaki Shinju (Double Suicide at Sonezaki). It was first performed at the Takemoto Puppet Theater in Osaka in 1703 and later adapted for the Kabuki stage. Their story was an obvious choice for inclusion by Buncho in a print series of eight celebrated stagelove affairs. These eight prints were a witty allusion (mitate-e) to the 'EightViews of LakeBiwa' (Omi Hakket), a subject often treated by classical landscape painters. On each of Buncho's prints a cartouche in the form of a folded love-letter contains the series title and the names of the pair of lovers depicted. The term hakkei ('eight views') in both series titles makes the allusion unmistakable.The plot of Sonezaki Shinju, based on an actual love-suicide that occurred in Osaka in 1703, shows the pure love of Ohatsu and Tokubei overwhelmed by the blindness and selfishness around them: a well-meaning, officious uncle who wants to arrange a rich but loveless marriage; an aunt who spends the dowry in advance; a perfidious friend who borrows money and then denies the loan. All these conspire to drive the lovers to their desperate but ultimately redeeming final act.Such dark themes, however, were antithetical to the lively nature of eighteenth-century ukiyo-e prints, and Bunco has chosen to depict a more cheerful scene early in the courtship, when Tokubei visits Ohatsu at the Temmaya house of pleasure to which she belongs, and receives a love-letter from her through the lattice of the brothel's 'display window' (harimise). In the entrance hall to the left is a large lantern bearing the orange-blossom (tachibana) crest of the establishment, and a spotted dog dozing under a bench; since sleeping dogs do not bark, this one will not give the lovers away. Tokubei wears a fashionable wraparound overcoat, black silk hood, and high black lacquer clogs, and carries a large, half-open umbrella. The fact that he is visiting on a snowy evening provides the link with 'Evening Snow on Mt. Hira' (Hira no Bosefsu), one of the 'Eight Views of Lake Biwa' to which the eight prints in the series allude. A classical poem quoted in the stylized cloudbank across the top of the picture makes the association explicit:Yuki haruru (The beauty of an evening)Hira no takane no(When the snow clears from)yugure wa (Mt. Hira's lofty peak)hana no sakari ni (Surpasses even)suguru koro kana (The cherry trees in bloom.)The colors of the print have faded considerably.
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