Exhibitions/ Art Object
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『百千鳥狂歌合』
Myriad Birds:A Playful Poetry Contest (Momo chidori kyōka-awase), 2 vols.

Artist:
Kitagawa Utamaro (Japanese, ca. 1754–1806)
Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
1790
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Two volumes; woodblock printed books; ink and color on paper
Dimensions:
Each: 10 × 7 1/2 × 1/4 in. (25.4 × 19.1 × 0.6 cm)
Classification:
Illustrated Books
Credit Line:
H. O. Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H. O. Havemeyer, 1929
Accession Number:
JIB77a, b
Not on view
Each of the double-page illustrations of this book depicts two avian species accompanied by a pair of playful love poems written in the “voice” of the respective bird. The poems are kyōka (literally, “mad verse”), or playful light verse written in five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 syllables respectively.

Japanese Grosbeak (Mamemawashi, “Bean-turner”) Shinobu no ni

irazaru kuchi no
mamemawashi
tsui saezurite
na ya morasuramu

My love affair is secret,
but the “bean-turner” bird,
with its big mouth,
no doubt spilled the beans
and squealed her name.
—Akera Kankō ; trans. John T. Carpenter

Woodpecker (Kitsutsuki)

Na ni tachite
koi ni ya kuchin
kitsutsuki no
tsuki-kudakaruru
hito no kuchibashi

As rumors spread
saying that my romance
has rotted away,
I'll be a woodpecker pecking
to pieces their tittle-tattle.
—Shinono Tamawaku; trans. John T. Carpenter

Duck (Kamo)

Tsukebumi no
tsukaimono ni wa
chi o hashiru
koi no yakko mo
kamo no torimochi

As he waits for his love letter
to be sped in its delivery
across land by a duck,
he remains a slave to love,
as though trapped in birdlime.

—Hōnen no Yukimaru; trans. John T. Carpenter

Kingfisher (Kawasemi)

Kimi to waga
nochi no yo kakete
hasu no ha ni
ii-kawasemi no
hane o naraben

Let us exchange vows
that you and I will be reborn
on the same lotus leaf,
and we’ll be forever close,
as joined wings of kingfishers.

—Sandara Hōshi; trans. John T. Carpenter
Signature: Gako Kitagawa Utamaro; Seal: Utamaro
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Birds in the Art of Japan," February 2, 2013–July 28, 2013.

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