“Takebun,” from the Musical Drama “The New Piece” (Shinkyoku)


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 227

These screens depict the “Takebun” episode of The New Piece (Shinkyoku), an example of the kōwakamai type of musical drama popular in the 1500s. Originally derived from the historical epic Taiheiki and later adapted into a Noh play, the tragic episode centers on the hero Takebun, the bravest and most loyal retainer of an imperial prince. In the right screen, Takebun, the repeated figure wearing a green robe, attempts to rescue the prince’s wife, who has been kidnapped by a samurai. Unable to save her, Takebun dies by ritual suicide, a scene depicted in the fifth panel from the right. The left screen represents the events after Takebun’s death, when he transforms into a vengeful spirit that takes the shape of crashing waves to thwart the samurai’s progress.

“Takebun,” from the Musical Drama “The New Piece” (Shinkyoku), Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, gold and silver leaf on paper, Japan

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