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Semimaru from Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu

Fan design sample print, Kneeling Nudes

Japanese Color Woodblock Print


from Woodblock Print Supplements to

the Complete Works of Chikamatsu

by Suga Tatehiko, 1922-1923

Fan design sample print, Kneeling Nudes

IHL Cat. #137

About This Print

One of 18 prints published from 1922 to 1923 as part of the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the death of Chikamatsu Manzaemon (1623-1724), perhaps the greatest dramatist in the history of the Japanese theater. Each design illustrates a scene or character from one of Chikamatsu’s famous works.  For more details on this series see Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of ChikamatsuIn this print, we see a tree shaded hut, Buddhist offerings and a lute. Semimaru, the blind lute player, sits in contemplation.

The Story of Semimaru

Legendary blind lute player and poet, the subject of several pre-modern works of poetry, fiction, and drama. His name first appeared in the imperial Waka anthology Gosen Wakashu (ca955-966), where authorship of a single poem is attributed to Semimaru. The most important prose work concerning Semimaru is a story in the Konjaku Monogatari (12th century). The Semimaru legend reaches its peak of pathos with the Noh play Semimaru, generally ascribed to the major Noh playwright Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1443). The last major work concerning Semimaru is the puppet drama Semimaru, an early work of the great playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724).

The Legend of Semimaru, Blind Musician of Japan, Susan Matisoff
Cheng & Tsui, 2006, p. 130-131, 148.
The year 1688 is the likeliest date of composition of Chikamatsu’s puppet play Semimaru.  It was the third notably successful play presented with Chikamatsu’s name as playwrite.   Chikamatsu transforms the legend of Semimaru into a love story while retaining the traditional identity of Semimaru as an enlightened poet whose most famous poem shows the futility of man’s emotional attachments to others.  

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #137
 Title or Description Semimaru
 Series Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu
 Dai Chikamatsu zenshu furoku mokuhan 大近松全集 付録木版
 Suga Tatehiko (1878-1963)
楯彦 Tatehiko
 Seal none
 Publication Date between 1922-1923
 Edition likely first edition, but the number of editions issued is unknown
 Carver Yamagishi Kazue 1893-1996
 Printer Nishimura Kumakichi
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition good - 3/8" tear center of let margin
 Miscellaneous all prints from this series printed on a light tan-colored paper
 Genre shin hanga (new prints)
 Format dai-oban
 H x W Paper 18 1/8 x 11 1/2 in. (46 x 29.2 cm)
 H x W Image 16 5/8 x 10 3/4 in. (42.2 x 27.3 cm) measurement includes gray border
 Collections This Print The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-0370 and 201-0371
 Reference Literature