Sōtatsu: Making Waves

Azusayumi, Tales of Ise, episode 24

Azusayumi, Tales of Ise, episode 24A woman waits three years for her husband to return from service at court. Thinking she has been abandoned, she is about to take a new lover. The husband returns, discovers his wife has promised herself to another man that very night, and leaves again immediately. In great distress, the woman pursues him until she collapses from exhaustion by a spring. Before drawing her last breath, she pricks her finger and writes in blood on the rock:

He did not love me,
and now he has gone away;
I could not stop him,
and for me the time has come
to disappear from this life.

Sōtatsu conveys the intensity of the woman’s emotion by making her larger at the lower edge of the picture plane; distant landscape elements suggest the tragedy wrought by separation. This work was part of the set owned by businessman Masuda Takashi (1848–1938).

Azusayumi, Tales of Ise, episode 24
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (act. ca. 1600–40)
Japan, early to mid-17th century
Poetry sheet mounted as hanging scroll
Ink, colors, and gold on paper
Hōshun Yamaguchi Memorial Hall

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