Artist: Shunkōsai Hokushū (春好斎北洲)

Print: Onoe Kikugorō III in seven hit roles - (Onoe Kikugorō Ōatari shichiyaku - 尾上菊五郎大当七役)

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Dates: 1820,created
Dimensions: 10.0 in,14.375 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print

Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
Publisher seals: Honya Seishichi
(Marks 123 - seal 25-181) and Oki

Related links: Valtion Taidemuseo (The Finnish National Gallery);

Physical description:

This print is linked to the play Kikustuke Irifune monogatari performed at the Kado theater in 7/1820.

Osaka Prints notes: "The plot of Kikuzuki irifune monogatari (菊月入船噺) is unknown to us, but it is one of the so-called Kasane mono (plays about Kasane: 累物). The tale is based on actual events as well as legends from the 17th century involving an extremely jealous and "ugly" woman named Kasane whose husband Yoemon murders her at the Kinu River in Hanyû Village. In one version of the legend, her vengeful ghost haunts various family members until she achieves salvation through prayers offered by Saint Yûten. In another adaptation, Kasane's spirit returns to possess another of Yoemon's wives. The ghost story became a significant work within the Edo-period genre of the ghost-story (kaidan-mono: 怪談物), with many playwrights, both in kabuki and the puppet theater, adapting the tale. Interestingly, virtually all retellings included the murder scene at the Kinu River."

Kikugorō III was famous for his ghost roles, which explains the predominant positioning of the figure on the left side. The others being portrayed are:

1) Kanō Shirojirō [狩野四郎次郎] in the upper left
2) Tenjiku Tokubei「天竺徳兵衛」in the upper right
3) Zato Tokuichi [座頭徳市], the blind musician - actually Tenjiku Tokubei - in the middle right
4) Fuwa Banzaemon [不破伴左衛門] in the middle left
5) Kasane [かさね] in the lower right
6) Kinugawa Yoemon「絹川与右衛門」, Kasane's husband, in the lower left
7) Kasane no Reikon [かさねの霊魂], the ghost of Kasane, along the left side of the print


I have wondered for years about the motif of the ghost on the left side. Especially puzzling has been that area just below the ghost, but now I think I know what it is: a nagare kanjō (流灌頂), a consecration cloth hung between four bamboo poles. In some plays when the villain goes to water the plant beneath the cloth a ghost holding a baby, an ubume (産女), a woman birthing ghost, rises up. That is surely what is intended here. (JSV)


Illustrated in Schätze der Kamigata: Japanische Farbholzschnitte aus Osaka 1780-1880, MNHA (Musée national d'histoire et d'art Luxembourg), p. 112, #237.


The second seal on this print, Oki, also belongs to the house of Honya Seishichi. In this case it represents the family name Tamaoki Seishichi (玉置清七).