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


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These screens depict the “Takebun” episode of “The New Piece” (“Shinkyoku”), an example of the kōwakamai type of musical drama popular in the sixteenth century. Originally derived from a tragic episode from the fourteenth-century historical epic Taiheiki and later adapted into a Noh play, “Takebun” centers on the eponymous hero, 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. Takebun ultimately fails to rescue the prince’s wife and thus commits ritual suicide, a scene depicted in the fifth panel from the right. The left screen depicts the events after Takebun’s suicide, when he is transformed into a vengeful spirit that takes the shape of crashing waves in an attempt 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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