These events happen on a summer day, during the era of Emperor Daigo. The emperor is hosting a party in the royal garden of Shinsen-en in Kyoto, to enjoy the evening cool. On the sandbar in the pond in the garden, a white heron is prancing around, while the evening moon, reflected on the water, looks just like one of the drinking cups used in a “meandering stream” party. Emperor Daigo and all of the ministers and officials at the party enjoy this beautiful sight. Suddenly, an idea comes into the emperor’s mind and he orders his chamberlain to capture the heron. At first, the chamberlain is bewildered, because he is unsure about how he should catch the bird, which might take to its wings and escape into the sky. However, he sets his mind on relying upon the majestic authority of the emperor and sneaks up on the heron from behind a boulder. The surprised heron flies up into the sky. However, when the chamberlain talks to the heron and tells it to obey the imperial command, it returns and lands on the place it was before, drops its wings, and bows down on the ground. The heron allows the chamberlain to catch it. Everyone witnessing this scene praises it as a tribute to the majesty and virtue of Emperor Daigo. The emperor, who is extremely pleased, confers a title of fifth-rank peerage upon the chamberlain and the heron. After the heron performs an elegant flying dance, it is released upon orders from the emperor. It happily flies up into the sky, vanishing into space.
Adapted from The Noh
The Woodblock Print
This vertical oban is in excellent condition. Incredibly-fine detail, shading, rich colors, no toning or discolorations, clean verso. Visible woodgrain in the background wash. Metallic inks used in the patterning and still vibrant; embossing present in the hair. Clean verso and no edge wear.
A stunning example of Kogyo’s Noh Drama work and a great standalone piece.
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.