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Nōga taikan, Semimaru

Nōga taikan, Jinen Koji

 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Semimaru 蝉丸

from the series Nōga taikan

by Matsuno Sōfū, 1930

Shōjō from an untitled series depicting characters in Noh plays
IHL Cat. #962

About This Print

Print #39 from the first volume of the series Noga Taikan (Encyclopedia of Noh Plays.) The entire series consists of 200 prints.   The artist Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927) designed the vast majority of prints for this series, but died before its completion.  His student Matsuno Sōfū (1899-1963) designed this print and twenty-three additional prints to complete the series after Kogyo's death.1  This print depicts a scene from the play Semimaru by the playwright Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443) in which Princess Sakagami (shite) stands in front of a hut at Osaka-yama where her brother Prince Semimaru (tsure) is playing his lute.2

For another depiction of this play see the print Nōgaku hyakuban, Semimaru by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927).  For another treatment of this story see Semimaru by Suga Tatehiko (1878-1963).

1 According to Robert Schapp in The Beauty of Silence: Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927), p. 35: "Sōfū's contributions all appear in what would have been the first album, but in fact the last published on January 25, 1930."

2 My thanks to Claus-Peter Schulz for identifying the play depicted in this print.f

The Play - Semimaru 蝉丸 by Zeami

Source: A Guide to No, P.G. O'Neill, Hinoki Shoten, 1929, p.154-155.

Tsure - Prince Semimaru
Waki - a Court Official
Wak-tsure - two bearers
Kyōgen - Hakuga no Sanmmi
Shite - Princess Sakagami

On the order of the Emperor Daigo, a Court official takes Prince Semimaru, who has been blind since he was a child, to Ōsaka-yama and leaves him there with only his lute to comfort him.  The Prince accepts his lot with resignation, feeling that his blindness is the result of some failure of his in a previous existence, and that the present apparent cruelty of his father is only due to a desire to help him gain a happier fate in a future life.  Meanwhile, his sister Princess Sakagami has gone out of her mind and is now a wild-haired figure, wandering aimlessly from place to place.  She comes one day to Ōsaka-yama and, attracted by the sound of Semimaru's lute, finds her brother again.  For a while they forget their loneliness as they talk together and comfort each other, but then the Princess leaves him and continues her sad wanderings.

Noh performance of Semimaru by Kanze Tetsunojo February 1968 
Copyright 1998-2006, Global Performing Arts Consortium

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #962
 Title Semimaru 蝉丸
 Series Nōga taikan 能画大鑑 (Encyclopedia of Noh Plays)
 Matsuno Sōfū (1899-1963)
 Seal Sōfū, as pictured above
 Date 1930
 Edition unknown
 Publisher Seibi Shoten, Tokyo
 Carver Uchida Eikichi
 Printer Yoshida Takesaburō
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - moderate toning, 1/2" tear lower edge repaired from verso
 Genre nishiki-e; Nōgaku zue [Noh play picture]
 Format oban yoko-e
 H x W Paper 10 x 14 1/2 in. (25.4 x 36.8 cm)
 Collections This Print
 Reference Literature