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Monday, July 24, 2017

Time Enough For A Tryst

Immortalized forever in a timeless embrace, we have an art scene created in 1680, but made at some later date into a woodblock ukiyo-e print.

Lovely, isn’t it?

Produced by famed Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hishikawa Moronobu (surname first), the untitled print has been given the name “Lovers in an Autumn Meadow.”

The title was given to the print by the United States Library of Congress staff, with the monochrome woodcut physically standing 28.8 x 41.5cm.

You can easily see the quality of the linework of Moronobu in this print…. simply exquisite.

Unlike later artists, Mornonobu gave his people an individual look… to me, if I didn’t know better, these characters could be taken out of a modern anime or manga.

While the secretive tryst takes place amongst some very beautifully-drawn flowers, I found it interesting to see the young warrior’s katana sword perched upright (and I’m pretty sure that even though it might be bad form to leave the sword splayed upon the ground, the sword being in an upright position was done for a reason).

While there may or may not be proper conduct regarding placing a sword upright or flat on the ground for a warrior, my point is the warrior has carelessly placed his katana far away from him… so even if he is lucky enough to notice someone approaching his amorous embrace and can break away in time… he still has to leap up and grab his sword perched all the way over against that gnarled tree.

The fact that the sword is still in its sheath could also imply that it hasn’t been used yet in a phallic way - if you know what I mean…

Because there are no fallen leaves surrounding the gnarled tree in the background, rather than suppose this is Autumn (per the Library staff), it could either be Summer or Spring.

Since rolling around with your favorite girl in the Summer can be hot work—would you like to imagine the warrior's hand reaching for a sweaty boob?—I prefer to to think the two young lovers are simply being randy in the Spring… 

To whit... though very few people know where the line below is from, many can quote it:

“In the Spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Locksley Hall, by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Of course, since that’s a line from a poem, and one near the poem's beginning, I would assume that “Spring” implies “youth” - hence our young lovers.

So… what do you think… is it possible that our artist Moronobu actually saw such a scene, and sat down to sketch the action while quietly hiding in the bush holding his pen? Voyeuristic? Opportunistic? Had a couple of models pose out in a meadow? Had a couple of models pose in his art studio and used his imagination for the rest? 

Andrew Joseph

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