Harutsura (春貴)was born in Kyôto in 1805 and he died on February 14, 1858. He was the son of Aoki Jinsuke (青木甚助). He was said to have been the student of Kawasaki Kageharu, but others say he was a self-taught genius. Kawasaki Kageharu was, in turn, a student of Ôtsuki Mitsumune. Harutsura’s work is considered to be the quality of Gôto Ichijô (後藤一乗) and Uesugi Kazutsura (上杉加壽貫). He worked in the classic late Gotô style. It is also said that he was a teacher of Kanô Natsuo (加納夏雄). His family name was Aoki (青木). His art names were Jinkichi (甚吉), Seiryûken (青柳軒), Seiryûsai (青柳斎).
This set of menuki shows the epitome of Harutsura’s skills. The motif is that of two noble gentlemen (courtiers) each restraining a fighting cock in his lap. These menuki were awarded the status of Jûyô Tôsôgu at the 62ndJûyô shinsa held on October 18, 2016. The translation of the Jûyô papers is as follows:
Jûyô-tôsôgu at the 62ndJûyô shinsa held on October 18, 2016
Toriawase no zu menuki (鶏合せ図目貫) – Ceremonial Cockfighting
Wari tanzaku-mei: Harutsura (春貫) meiinscribed on a gold plate
Interpretation: shakudô, katachibori, gold, silver, and shakudô zogan-iroe
Time:End of the Edo Period
Explanation: Aoki Harutsura’s (青木春貫)first name was Jinkichi (甚吉)and he was born in the second year of Bunka (1805) in Kyôto. Harutsura was first of all focusing on kozuka and kôgai and was referred to by the nickname Yamajinra (山甚裏). First, he learned from his father Jinsuke (甚助), but studied later with the Ôtsuki School artist Yamazaki Kagaharu (山崎加賀春)and it is said that he also learned from Uesugi Kazutsura (上杉加寿貫)and Gotô Ichijô (後藤一乗). Harutsura signed in a characteristically clerical script (reisho) and, among others in the varients “Harutsura” (春貫), “Ao Harutsura”(青春貫), and “Seiryûken Harutsura” (青柳軒春貫). Most of his works are of shakudô or shibuichi and show a minute takabori ornamentation that is accentuated with many varients of zôgan-iroe. He died in Ansei 5 (1858) at the age of 54. One of his students was Masatsura (政貫).
These menuki truly testify to Harutsura’s great skill and the cocks are interpreted in a powerful manner that makes them look like starting to set-off at any moment, only being held back by the courtiers who handle them. This lively scene is very well captured and the use of the various zôgan-iroe accentuations is very typical for Harutsura. A dignified and very tense masterwork.
These menuki were also published in the NBTHK Tôken Bijutsu monthly publication No.694 in November of 2014 in a special series called “Appreciation of Fine Tosôgû”.
The translation of the description in that publication is as follows:
Series “Appreciation of Fine Tōsōgu” (Tōken Bijutsu No. 694, 11-2014)
Tōkei no zu menuki (闘鶏図⽬貫) – Menuki depicting fighting cocks
Wari-tanzaku-mei: Haru-tsura (春貫)
Kawasaki Kagaharu (川崎加賀春) and Aoki Harutsura (⻘⽊春貫) were artists who emerged from the lineage of the Ōtsuki (⼤⽉) School. Both were highly skilled, but died relatively young and at the height of their careers so to speak, Kagaharu at the age of 42 and Harutsura at the age of 54. The menuki introduced here are a work of the latter master, Harutsura. Harutsura wasborn in Bunka two (1805) as son of Yamashiroya Jinsuke (⼭城屋甚助)who was a craftsman specialized in the productionof kozuka. The Tagane no Hana (鏨廼花) writes: “Harutsura was a natural, that is, he was an autodidact and trained himself without a master. However, it is also said that he studied with Kawasaki Kagaharu, but no further details are known, andothers suggest that he was consulting with Uesugi Kazutsura (上杉加寿貫) and Gotō Ichijō (後藤⼀乗).”
Well, as he was the son of a kozuka maker, it is safe to assume that he received a basic training in the craft from his father.Kagaharu was only a few years older than Harutsura, which may speak against a traditional master-student relationship, and the fact that only few works of Kagaharu exist also makes it difficult to narrow down the exact relationship between the two artists.As for Gotō Ichijō, there are no references or documents that would confirm a relationship between the two either. Therefore, we may agree with the Tagane no Hana that Harutsura did not have an initial master in the traditional sense.
Looking at Harutsura’s existing body of work leaves no doubt about the above mentioned statement that he was a natural talent. Particularly remarkable are his choice of designs and the expressiveness of his figures. Regarding motifs in general, we find various deities, events and legends from Chinese history and annals, scenes from the Genpei War and from Nō play, andJapanese traditions, like as seen here, courtly cockfighting, which was introduced in the Heian period and performed annually in the third lunar month. That is, Harutsura chose motifs from his cultural environment and turned them into sword fittings designs in a masterly manner. The figures shown in these menuki have highly detailed facial expressions and their arms and legs reflect very well the physical tenseness they are in. The garments move elegantly and softly, the eboshi hats shows fullness, and the plumage and tail feathers of the cocks are interpreted in a very fluid manner and are accentuated with chiselmarks.
Harutsura made ample use of different kinds of coloration, e.g., okigane and hira-zōgan, and this in a degree of perfection that underlines that we are not facing here the work of an average kinkō artist. The menuki pair is overall highly elegant and even thereverse is with its large chikara- gane and positive pins finished in a very meticulous manner. In addition, the signature is chiseledin the diligent manner that is so typical for Harustsura.
Thus, this is a work that does not only make us aware of the excellence of this artist, but that also brings us near thewonderfully profound and complex work of this Kyōto-based kinkō master.
Explanation: Kubo Yasuko
To say that these menuki are a work of art would be truly an understatement. Rather, they would be considered to be one, if not the, highlights of any collection.