Hanging scroll; colors, gofun, ink, and gold on silk
Image: 75 1/2 × 42 1/2 in. (191.8 × 108 cm)
Overall with mounting: 116 1/4 × 51 5/8 in. (295.3 × 131.1 cm)
Overall with knobs: 116 1/4 × 55 5/8 in. (295.3 × 141.3 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2013
Not on view
A female chanter for a Jōruri puppet theater is captured in a quiet moment, enjoying a cup of tea in her dressing room, while she prepares for an upcoming performance. Though this painter’s biography remains obscure, the portrait is imbued with a solemnity and psychological subtlety often found in early twentieth-century Nihonga paintings of female subjects.
In front of the chanter is a woodblock-printed book with the libretto for a puppet play, the text inscribed in the distinctive dense, bold script associated with Jōruri manuscripts. The text has been so punctiliously rendered, including annotations in red ink, that we can identify the exact passage from the play she is practicing: the revenge story Mirror Mountain: Brocade Pictures of Our Hometown (Kagamiyama kokyō no nishiki-e). The sheet of paper pinned to the wall is a sponsorship announcement (iwai-bira), rendered in loose, expressive calligraphy, which acknowledges that the puppeteer’s patron has presented a gift of a curtain for the puppet stage. Leaning against the wall is a shamisen, the three-stringed instrument played during the performance to accompany the chanting. The puppets hanging on the wall are not the large handheld puppets usually used for Jōruri but rather smaller marionettes, which the puppeteer operates by strings attached to a wooden board.