Gentleman Taking Leave of His Lady on a Veranda

Suzuki Harunobu Japanese

Edo period (1615–1868)

Not on view

Although a seemingly incidental element of the scene, the cock and hen that recapitulate the affection expressed in the human sphere signal a number of poetic sources, including one of the most touching episodes in the tenth-century "Tales of Ise" (chapter 22). Knowing viewers of this couple on a veranda, who gaze wistfully at each other as the man prepares to take his leave, would recall the happy denouement of one of the main narratives of separated lovers in this classic cycle of poetic tales:

They talked of what had happened and of the future,
and he recited,

Would I be satisfied if I count
a thousand nights as one,
and sleep with you eight thousand nights?

She replied,

Were we to make a thousand autumn nights into one,
There would still be things to say
at cockcrow.

From then on he visited her more faithfully than ever.

Gentleman Taking Leave of His Lady on a Veranda, Suzuki Harunobu (Japanese, 1725–1770), Woodblock print; ink and color on paper, Japan

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