Beautiful art work of Tosa Mitsutoki* embroidered with a theme from the Noh play "Takasago" on an antique fukusa, a Japanese gift cover. The signature, seal and other characters are embroidered. To find a signature on a fukusa from this period (late Edo) is very rare; in fact, I have never seen one. The characters (at the bottom left side) read "e-dokoro azukari" which is the title for the head of the Imperial Painting Bureau. The characters in the next column translate to Tosa Sakin Shogen (a title for a governor of Tosa) and is followed by the name Mitsutoki with his seal.
This is a wonderful fukusa, likely to be used to cover the “yuino” gifts
when they were exchanged before a wedding. By choosing a Takasago as a
theme, the giver probably hoped to bring the sacredness and the blessing of god upon their marriage. Takasago represents a harmony in marriage, a long life and strength of an evergreen pine tree. Silk satin (shusu) lined with crepe (chirimen) silk.
*Tosa Mitsutoki (?-1819) was the 21st Tosa painter whose family dominated the position of "e-dokoro azukari" since the Ashikaga era in the 15th century (except a short period of time that was taken over by the Kano school painters from the late 16th to mid 17th). Court appointed painters worked for the palace, shrines, noble class and high ranking samurai families. Their painting style was in Yamato-e, a Japanese style versus a Chinese style. Just like other "e dokoro azukari", Tosa Mitsutoki also painted the "Daijyo-e Byobu" folding screens for Daijyosai; this was a court banquet held during the first harvest festival after the succession of the new emperor.
Takasago: There is no visible image of god in Japanese Shinto religion. For this reason, people naturally find the spirit of god in their surroundings, especially in nature.
In Takasago, the old couple are seen together on the beach of Takasago (today’s Hyogo prefecture) sweeping fallen pine needles under the trees. The old man Jo and old woman Uba are the spirits of the pine trees that were grown in Takasago and Sumiyoshi. The two trees are located far apart but their spirits are together as a couple. What Jo gathers with his rake are goodness and fortunes, and Uba sweep the evil away with her broom. "Takasago" is a masterpiece written by Zeami in the Muromachi period (1336–1573) and is considered the best “Shugen Noh” (noh for celebration) by
many. The conversation that took place between Joe and Tomonari (a
Shinto priest) is not only written beautifully but it had such depth to it.
The verses from the “Takasago” are still read today in traditional Japanese weddings.
"the-noh.com" (www.the-noh.com) offers great information about the Noh plays. This quote came from the-noh.com. "This play (Takasago) is one of the best of the masterpieces, persisting in the idea of blessing and celebration, extremely bright, and full of the atmosphere of nobility, dignity, and purity. The audience can enjoy this piece by simply seeing, listening, and feeling it. Those in the audience are able to experience purification through seeing Takasago."