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Nōgakuzue, Utsubozaru


 Japanese Color Woodblock Print

Utsubozaru 靱猿

(Kyōgen 狂言)

(The Monkey Skin Quiver)

from the series Nōgakuzue

by Tsukioka Kōgyo, 1897

Nōgakuzue, Tsuchigumo

IHL Cat. #208

About This Print

One of 261 prints from the series gakuzue (Illustrations of Noh).  It illustrates a scene in the kyōgen play Utsubozaru in which a monkey dances with a lord who has just spared his life. 

Compared with the sumptuous weave of the elegant noh costumes, the costumes in kyōgen are mostly dyed in light, attractive patterns.1

Preparatory Drawing for the Print

The below preparatory drawing gives notations on color to the printer for the final print.

Scene from the Noh play "Utsubozaru"
Rijksmuseum RP-T-1996-134
Toneelscene waarin een acteur een dans uitvoert met een aangelijnde, als aap verkleede, acteur. De aap wordt vastgehouden door een derde acteur, zittend in de achtergrond. Bij de tekening aantekeningen met betrekking tot kleur en details. Voortekening voor een kleurenhoutsnede.

The Kyogen Play - Utsubozaru (The Monkey Skin Quiver)

Source: I Think I am a Verb: More Contributions to the Doctrine of Signs, Thomas Albert Sebeok, Springer-Verlag New York, LLC, 1986, p. 120.

A Daimyo goes out hunting with his servant Taro Kaja, and on the way they meet a Monkey Trainer.  The Daimyo want to borrow the Monkey’s skin to cover his quiver.  The Trainer, of course, refuses so the Daimyo gets angry and threatens to kill both the Trainer and the Monkey.  The Trainer finally agrees, and asks for a few minutes to say goodbye.  He also says that instead of shooting the Monkey with an arrow, which would harm the skin, he will kill it himself.  He starts to strike the Monkey, and the Monkey mistakes his action for a signal to perform, so it grabs the stick and uses it as an oar.  The Trainer begins to cry, the Daimyo asks the reason, and the Trainer replies that he has raised and trained the Monkey from the time it was born, so it is like a son to him.  The Daimyo is greatly moved, and decides not to kill either the Monkey or the Trainer.  In gratitude, the Monkey performs and the Trainer sings.  The Daimyo presents his fan, sword, and even his own clothes to the Monkey Trainer; then he begins to dance and perform with the Monkey, thus ending on a happy note.

A modern-day performance of Utsubozaru by the
Mansaku-no-Kai Kyogen Company
photo credit: Takako Nakasu

Print Details

 IHL Catalog #208
 Title Utsubozaru - Kyōgen 靱猿 (The Monkey Skin Quiver)
 Series Nōgakuzue 能樂圖繪 (Illustrations of Noh)
 Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927)
 Kōgyo 耕 漁
White letter seal in a rectangular shape with double border: 湖畔 [Kohan]
Kōhan, seal no. 59, p. 171 in The Beauty of Silence: Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927), Robert Schaap & J. Thomas Rimer, Hotei Publishing, 2010.
This collection's print does not carry the printing and publishing date, as the area where that would normally appear, in the left margin, has been trimmed.
The print in the collection of the Rijksmuseum (RP-P-1996-65) carries a printing date of September 10, 1899 and an issuance date of September 15, 1899, as shown in the photo left.

The book The Beauty of Silence, on p. 88, gives a date of October 10, 1897 for this print and Ritsumeikan University ARC database gives the date as Printed May 25, 1897 / Issued June 1, 1897 明治三十年五月廿五日 印刷仝年六月一日発行
 Edition unknown - at least 3 different printings exist, as detailed in "Date" above, with earliest date of issuance June 1, 1897.
 Publisher Matsuki Heikichi (Daikokuya Heikichi 大黒屋平) [Marks: pub. ref. 029]
 Impression excellent
 Colors excellent
 Condition fair - left margin trimmed; several printer red ink marks right edge of image; diagonal crease upper left
 Genre ukiyo-e; nōgakuzue 能楽図絵
 Format oban yoko-e
 H x W Paper 9 1/2 x 14 in. (24.1 x 35.6 cm)
 H x W Image
 8 7/8 x 13 1/8 in. (22.5 x 33.3 cm) area within printed black border
 Collections This Print Art Institute of Chicago 1939.2258.10; Ritsumeikan University ARC UP0884; University of Pittsburgh 20091209-kogyo-0204; Rijksmuseum RP-P-1996-65
 Reference Literature The Beauty of Silence: Nō and Nature Prints by Tsukioka Kōgyo (1869-1927), Robert Schaap & J. Thomas Rimer, Hotei Publishing, 2010, p. 88, pl. 33.