During the Engi period (901-923) under the reign of Emperor Daigo, Tomonari, a Shinto priest of Aso Shrine in Kyushu, stops at a scenic beach, Takasago-no-ura, in Harima Province (present Hyogo Prefecture) on his way to sightseeing in Kyoto with his retinue. While Tomonari is waiting for a villager, an immaculate old couple appears. Tomonari asks the couple who are sweeping up the needles under a pine tree to tell him the tale associated with the pine. The couple explains that the pine is the renowned Takasago Pine, which is paired with the Suminoe Pine growing in distant Sumiyoshi; together they are called Aioi-no-matsu (Paired Pines). They appreciate that Japanese poetry (waka) is flourishing in the reign of the current emperor, as it flourished in the ancient age of the Manyōshu (the Anthology of Myriad Leaves), and compare the present and past with the Takasago Pine and Suminoe Pine. The old man continues that poetry flourishes because everything in this world, including trees and grasses, embraces the heart of poetry. He then explains that pine trees, evergreens which grow for one thousand years, are especially blessed and tells the historical story of the pine. Finally, the old couple reveals that they are the incarnation of Takasago Pine and Sumiyoshi Pine, which are the paired trees called Aioi-no-matsu. They promise to see Tomonari at Sumiyoshi again and board a boat from the shore washed by the evening tide. The boat follows the wind and eventually disappears beyond the horizon.
Tomonari and his retinue depart Takasago Bay determined to follow the old couple and embark for Sumiyoshi when the moon rises. When they arrive at the beach in Sumiyoshi, the masculine Sumiyoshi Deity appears before the group. Under the moonlight, Sumiyoshi Deity dances airily and divinely to expel demons, celebrate the longevity of the emperor and people and the peace of this world.
Adapted from The Noh
The Woodblock Prints
This oban diptych is in very good condition. The prints themselves are in very good condition with little to no edgewear, very strong colors, bleed through and perceptible wood grain. The only minor flaw is that there is some scotch tape residue on the verso from where the two blocks were taped to each other in order for framing.
A rare oban in beautiful condition and the complete diptych.
About the Artist
Tsukioka Kōgyo (月岡 耕漁, Tsukioka Kōgyo), sometimes called Kōgyo Sakamaki (坂巻 耕漁, Sakamaki Kōgyo), was a Japanese artist of the Meiji period (April 18, 1869 – February 25, 1927). He was a student and adopted son of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, and also studied with Ogata Gekkō. Although Kōgyo sometimes painted other subjects, most of his career centered around pictures of Japanese noh theatre, either as large-scale paintings or colored woodblock prints. Many of the latter were published in series and sold as multi-volume sets. Some sets, such as Nōgaku zue, have been preserved as albums in their original bindings, including accordion-style bindings known as orihon, while other sets such as Nōga taikan, were issued in sewn bindings known as yamato toji.
Unlike most ukiyo-e prints, his works have an almost painterly quality and use gold and silver for the Noh costume embellishments. Kogyo’s woodblock prints required very skilled engravers and printers to produce. Kogyo died in Tokyo at the age of 58.