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Artist: Shunkōsai Hokushū (春好斎北洲)

Print: Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Kanda Yogorō (神田与五郎)
in the play Ōishizuri sakura tanzaku [大西摺桜花短冊]

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Dates: 1822,created
Dimensions: 9.875 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
春好斎北洲画
Publisher: Publisher: Toshikuraya Shinbei
(Marks 539 - seal 25-553)

Related links: Freer/Sackler Galleries; Lyon Collection - the full triptych;Hankyu Culture Foundation;

Physical description:

About this play

Osaka Prints has written: "This play and production was a big hit and proved to be a popular subject for a number of artists. Although the plot for Ôishizuri sakura tanzaku (Ôishi’s stone rubbing, a poem card, and flowering cherry: 大西摺桜花短冊) remains unknown, some role names (such as the virtuous wives Oishi and Osono, or Okaru's brother, Teraoka Heiemon) inscribed on prints by several artists for this production suggest that the story line was adapted from the most famous of all revenge plays, Kanadehon chûshingura (Copybook of the Treasury of Loyal Retainers: 假名手本忠臣蔵). Prints by Hokushû, Shunchô, and Yoshikuni for this performance further identify Utaemon's role of the wine-shop merchant (天川や) as Amakawaya Igo (later called Yatô Yomoshichi). Utaemon also performed as Tashirô Yasubei (a.k.a. the servant Yasuke)."

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This is the right-hand sheet of a Hokushū triptych. This print helps commemorate a performance at the Naka Theater on the 13th day of the 3rd month of 1822.

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The two outer prints show "Both actors... depicted as torite (literally, 'take hands') or kabuki policemen, brandishing jitte truncheons (known as gimbō, or 'silver sticks,' in theater parlance) and wearing yoten, an outer garment with slit hems and wide sleeves.... The mustard-yellow pattern in the background of each print is based on the crest of the respective actor.... The pattern is rendered in reserve, resembling a stone-rubbing (ishizuri) technique - clearly a reference to the title of the play, 'Ōishi,' in the title of the play, Ōishizuri sakura tanzaku (Ōishi's stone-rubbing of a poem card on cherry blossoms) recalls the name fo one fo the protagonists in the vendetta play Chūshingura and indicates that this play borrowed plot elements from the more famous one.

The hokku on the print at the right is signed Shiyū, whose actual identity is yet to be uncovered, as is the case with the poet who styled himself Nitsura on the left print.... The poet olayfully weaves in phrases associated with torite roles while praising Shikan, an alternate name used by Nakamura Utaemon III:

ōiri o
totta to tachimi
Shika yori
hoka e hiiki wa
metta ni yaran zo

Playing to packed houses,
Shikan's dramatic stances
are just so "arresting"
that fans really feel
"there's nowhere to escape!"

Quoted from: Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints in the Anne van Biema Collection, p. 148.

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The poetic text and signature on this print reads: 大入をとつたとたち身芝翫よりほかへひいきはめつたにやらんそ 芝友

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The character 'yo' (与) which appears on this actor's jacket is shorthand for the role he is playing.

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Illustrated:

1) In black and white on page 40 of Stars from the Stage in Osaka: Early 19th-century Japanese Kabuki Prints by Matthi Forrer.

2) In Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata yakusha-e shūsei (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints), vol. 1, Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka 1997, no. 122. (This entry shows all three panels.)

3) This print along with the left primt in color in< i>Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints in the Anne van Biema Collection, p. 149.