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.
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.