"A Certain Look" -- Takehisa Yumeji

posted Monday, April 25, 2005

"If I were asked what that girl's good points are, well, I couldn't really give a simple answer, but..." -- so said A., an artist of my acquaintance.

The girl in question was employed at my studio as a model like any other. I hadn't paid any special attention to her. She was just another girl. Perhaps seventeen or eighteen years old, but -- because of her height, she said -- already wearing an adult's kimono, with the sleeves let down.

She seemed, then, a girl with nothing remarkable about her character or her nature. But when someone spoke to her or asked her a question, she had a habit of murmuring "oh, my," instead of answering, and returning their gaze with slightly smiling eyes.

Her eyes were not particularly coquettish, but she was after all a young and nubile lady, so those dark, liquid eyes of hers did give one a kind of vague, agreeable feeling.

Furthermore, this "oh, my" reply of hers sometimes came across as neither a yes nor a no, but rather a complete absorption and then skillful redirection of what her interlocutor had said. So at times she seemed a rather wise and talented girl. But sometimes it was simply a foolish, unhelpful "oh, my."

I was working on a two-week painting, with this girl as my model. I think it was a Sunday after the first week had passed. I had gone out to buy more paints, and when I came back, I saw her inside at the bay window. She was half turned away from me, showing me her profile, and sitting quite still.

When I ride the train, I often notice that women who are completely unaware of being watched have a kind of free, open beauty -- or, at the other extreme, their unconscious bodily disgust or modesty or shyness inverts itself into a sensual attractive force.

I also feel a wicked glee when I am able to spy on a person who is simply doing something by themselves, not suspecting that anyone is watching them. In particular, when that person is a woman, as long as she is not sleeping, I see in her certain mysterious beauty. This moment arriving back at my studio was exactly this kind of chance.

I walked up under the window from the garden, and watched the model through the glass door. She was deep in concentration, pulling at lock of her fringe with her fingers. I wondered what she planned to do with it, and she brought it down towards her nose and gazed at it. Her pupils naturally came together, and she was suddenly as cross-eyed as Nikki Danjô using his evil magic.

I came dangerously close to laughing, but I was quickly struck by something mysterious, and began to grew serious at heart again.

What she was doing was not good for her eyes. Nor was it a natural pose. I grew unable to watch in silence, and so called "O-mitsu-chan!" from outside the window. O-mitsu was her name.

O-mitsu turned to me, surprised, and gave me a look with eyes that seemed to contain all of her affectionate feelings, as she stood up. Then she said her usual "oh, my!"

That instant of beauty, which showed its shape for only a flash before quickly vanishing -- I painted tirelessly for the rest of that two weeks, but in the end I was unable to capture it in the work itself.


『ある眼』 (Aru Me), by Takehisa Yumeji (竹久夢二), 1884-1934.

Aozora Bunko version entered by Watanabe Tsuyoshi (渡邉つよし) and proofread by Kadota Hiroshi (門田裕志).


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