“Shakkyō” is a kirinoh, or the last piece performed in the entire Noh program. This piece describes auspiciousness and includes a unique Shishimai, or lion dance. The lion dance is considered an advanced skill which requires special forms, movements, and expressiveness. Therefore Shakkyō is classified into one of the hiraki-mono, a kind of an initiation ceremony in the Noh world, which demonstrates that the performer has reached a specific level of learning in his or her Noh training. Parts of staging differ by schools; some schools position the boy as mae-shite (the first half lead part) while the Hosho school positions him as tsure (the companion of shite). Under modern theatrical circumstances it often happens that only the second half of this piece is performed (han-noh). Renjishi or the lion dance by two lions is also a popular way of staging in many schools.
Noh (能, Nō, derived from the Sino-Japanese word for “skill” or “talent”) is a major form of classical Japanese dance-drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Noh is often based on tales from traditional literature with a supernatural being transformed into human form as a hero narrating a story. Noh integrates masks, costumes and various props in a dance-based performance, requiring highly trained actors and musicians. Emotions are primarily conveyed by stylized conventional gestures while the iconic masks represent the roles such as ghosts, women, children, and the elderly. Written in late middle Japanese, the text “vividly describes the ordinary people of the twelfth to sixteenth centuries”. Having a strong emphasis on tradition rather than innovation, Noh is extremely codified and regulated by the iemoto system. Noh was seen as an upper-class/nobility version of Kabuki Theatre, but in the later part of the 20th century has developed a new-found audience in Japan and abroad.
Kogyo’s Vertical Noh Prints
Shortly before his death in early 1927, Kogyo completed work on his masterpiece series, “One Hundred Noh Dramas.” This beautiful series took several years to complete, and reflects Kogyo’s consummate skill in drawing and composition. The Noh Theater in Japan is known for its spare stage decoration and sumptuous costumes, and Kogyo’s minimalist designs reflect this. Delicate patterning, lush coloring, and embellishments such as silver and gold mica and embossing capture the rich costumes worn by the actors. The soft watercolor-like backgrounds provide a painterly contrast to the carefully detailed figures. These wonderful prints required extreme care on the part of the carvers and printers to bring Kogyo’s vision to life. The great Noh print master Kogyo reached the pinnacle of his career with these wonderful, vertical Noh designs. His fantastic series is a great favorite of collectors and a rare and desirable set.
The Woodblock Prints
This stunning diptych is rarely seen sold together; pieces were often separated and sold as standalones. Both obans are in very good condition with rich colors, no discoloration. Vibrant colors enhanced with patterning in metallic inks. Clean versos.
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 known for his intricate and detailed works in the traditional Japanese painting style of ukiyo-e. He was a student and adopted son of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, and also studied with Ogata Gekkō. He studied under the painter and printmaker Kōno Bairei, who introduced him to the traditional techniques of ukiyo-e.
Kōgyo’s style was heavily influenced by the traditional Japanese theater form of kabuki and Noh. He specialized in creating prints and paintings of actors in costume and in dramatic poses, often surrounded by elaborate sets and scenery. His works were highly detailed and meticulously rendered, capturing the beauty and drama of the kabuki performances. 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.
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.
Kōgyo was also known for his use of color, which he applied in bold, expressive brushstrokes. He often used bright, contrasting colors to create a sense of drama and energy in his works. He was also skilled in creating prints and paintings that captured the changing seasons and the beauty of the natural world.
Kōgyo’s contributions to the art world were widely recognized during his lifetime. He was a member of the prestigious Tokyo School of Fine Arts and was awarded numerous prizes and honors for his work. His prints and paintings were exhibited in galleries around the world, including the Tokyo National Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
- “Kabuki: The Popular Stage of Japan” by Zoe Kincaid, Dover Publications (2012)
- “Kōgyo: The Japan of Kabuki” by Mikio Matsui, Kodansha International (1984)
- “Japanese Prints: From the Early Masters to the Modern” by James A. Michener, Tuttle Publishing (1995)