Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Komuso Monk and Girl, c 1830’s. Kakemono-e (vertical diptych).
An extremely nice Kunisada kakemono-e and an unusual subject. The print depicts a mendicant priest called a Komuso, from the Zen Buddhist sect of Fuke. They were ‘have nothing’ priests who relied on alms from the villages they travelled through and were characterised by wearing these distinctive wicker-wear hats (tengai) that were like baskets, and by playing solo pieces on the shakuhachi - a type of flute.
The mysterious Komuso were a medieval sect originally, and because of their disguise they were often associated with samurai or ninja assassins in disguise. Fearful of spies, Edo governments have at times banned or restricted the practice, especially since the Fuke Zen were allowed to travel unrestricted between prefectures.
The history of subterfuge has lent the monks a mysterious air and they often appear in stories and kabuki plays as disguised lovers or as Ronin - leaderless samurai. It is likely that this print depicts a well known love story of a Komuso and a girl who habitually left water out for him in a bowl. The reflection of his face under the wicker hat in the water caused the girl to fall in love with him and eventually the couple eloped to a happier life.
This is a very good full size print that would have been mounted on a hanging scroll at one point. The condition is very good and the impression and colour is fine. Full size.
Signed Kocho Kunisada ga.
74cm x 25cm.