(Japanese, c. 1754–1806)
Color woodblock print; ink and color on paper
Sheet: 39.1 x 26.3 cm (15 3/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
The Kelvin Smith Collection, given by Mrs. Kelvin Smith 1985.360
This series gives a famous play a humorous spin by altering the setting and some parts of the narrative. Utamaro kept his jokes accessible by picturing the action of the original episode to the side of the main image for easy reference. In this print, a spy reading a letter is turned into a dog; both can be pronounced inu in Japanese. In the stage version of this scene, the loyal samurai Oboshi Yuranosuke reads an important letter relating details of the plot to avenge the unjust death of his master. The spy Kudayu also reads the note as it unrolls beneath the veranda. On the balcony, the jealous courtesan Okaru believes it to be a love letter from a rival. Utamaro transforms the spy/counterspy episode into a humorous scene on a warm night. A beau reads a love letter, its presence disturbing the dog lying underneath the veranda. On the balcony above, a bored courtesan shows no interest in the scene below as she fans herself to keep cool.
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