The Kura - Japanese Art Treasures

Robert Mangold has been working with Japanese antiques since 1995 with an emphasis on ceramics, Paintings, Armour and Buddhist furniture.

Hakuzosu Fox Spirit Scroll by Otagaki Rengetsu

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Directory: Archives: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Pre 1900: Item # 1221170

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The Kura
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Kita-ward Kyoto 603-8216
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Feeling frisky that day, perhaps a wry self portrait by this most famous of Nuns, Otagaki Rengetsu with a poem brushed above in her unique script.
Hito hakaru The trickster
Sagano no harano In the Fields of Sagano
Yufumagure At Twilight
Onoka obana ya Tail in the Pampas grass
Sode to misuran Will it seem a sleeve
There is something very human about this depiction, perhaps the nose…The Hakuzosu (Fox spirit) is a popular theme surrounding the superstition that foxes transform themselves into human form to bewitch the unwary, particularly at twilight. Perhaps the final reference to a sleeve is that of the beguiler, the sleeve of a kimono draped for the seduction of a passing man. Performed with ink on paper in a silk border, the scroll is 10-1/4 x 65-1/2 inches (26 x 166.5 cm) and in overall fine condition. The word obana, written with characters meaning "tail-flower," is classic poetic diction for susuki autumn grass signifying Sagano, a place name often used in poetry as a pun on saga, "one's nature." For a similar image with this poem see the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York (Gift of Donald Keene).
Much has been written about the life and work of poet/artist Otagaki Rengetsu. Born into a samurai family, she was adopted into the Otagaki family soon after birth, and served as a lady in waiting in Kameoka Castle in her formative years, where she received an education worthy of a Lady of means. Reputed to be incredibly beautiful, she was married and bore three children; however her husband and all children died before she was twenty. Remarried she bore another daughter, however that child too perished and her husband died while she was just 32. Inconsolable, she cut off her hair to join the nunnery at Chion-in Temple, where she renounced the world and received the name Rengetsu (Lotus Moon). However this was not the end, but only the beginning of a career as artist and poet which would propel her to the top of the 19th century Japan literati art world.