Ippitsusai Bunchō
The Autumn Moon of Umewaka
c. 1770/72

Signed: Bunchō ga, artist’s seal: Mori uj;i chūban, 26.1 x 19.0 cm; nishiki-e with karazuri

From “Eight Views of the Sumida River” On the terrasse of the teahouse a geisha is sitting with her kamuro, who is tightening the third string on a shamisen. The young girl is looking out over the Sumida River, on which a barge and a raft are being punted. The title of the print appears in the clouds at the top and the series title on a plaque in the form of an inkstick on the right edge of the picture. The name of the Sumida River (“ink field”) is related to the series title bokusui (“ink water”).

Provenance: Bunshichi Kobayashi; Tadamasa Hayashi; R. E. Lewis, San Francisco; R. G. Sawers, London (October 1967)
Riese Collection #38

The Eight Views of the Sumida River is one of four sets that Bunchō, an artist who specialised in actor portraits, designed in the squarish chūban format. Only three other subjects from the set are known: Evening glow at Ayase, Evening rain at Hashiba, and Haze at Imado Bridge. In this print a kamuro restrings a samisen while her mistress, a courtesan, sits holding a plectrum looking out over the river. Bokusui is written with the characters for “ink” in Japanese and the series title is written on a device in the shape of an ink stick. “Ink” is also called sumi in Japanese, and bokusui is poeticism for the Sumida River. Umewaka seems to have been a shrine on the precincts of the Mokuboji Temple it may also have referred to the adjacent area. Bunchō is far more interested in the two figures and the river than in topography, and Umewaka seems as unimportant to the print as the faint moon rising through the mist in the distance beyond the far embankment.

Reproduced in Riese, Asiatische Studien, 1972, p. 86, no. 12.