Unworthy, / I wear the ink-black robes / of a priest. / I pray for the people living / in this painful world (おほけなく / うき世の民に / おほふかな / わがたつそまに / 墨ぞめの袖). In the upper part of this precious original woodblock print by the artist Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) we read the verses by the poet and Buddhist monk Saki no Daisojo Jien (前大僧正慈円). In the lower part, the famous struggle from the play “Mounting Love at the Snowbound Barrier” (積恋雪関扉) between the court noble Otomo no Kuronushi (大伴黒主), disguised as the guardian Sekibei (関兵衛) armed with a huge axe, and the courtesan Sumizome (墨染), who is actually the spirit of the Komachi cherry tree (小町桜霊).
The print, produced in 1847 by the publisher Ibaya Senzaburo (伊場屋仙三郎) owner of Dansendo (団仙堂), is taken from “Imitations of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu” (小倉擬百人一首), a series inspired by the collection of waka (和歌) poetic compositions “One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets” (百人一首) compiled by Fujiwara no Teika (藤原定家).
The woodcut on Japanese washi paper (和紙), despite the right signs of aging and a slight vertical central fold, is in good condition, thanks also to a relining carried out on the back.