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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Print: Morita Kan'ya XI as Shihei-Kō (時平公) with Arashi Rikaku II as Matsuomaru (松王丸)
on the right and Seki Sanjurō III as Umeōmaru (梅王丸) with Onoe Kikujirō II
as Sakuramaru (桜丸) on the left

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Dates: 1850,created
Dimensions: 20.0 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed (on right): Ichiyōsai Toyokuni ga
一陽斎豊国画
Signed (on left): Kōchōrō Toyokuni ga
香蝶楼豊国画
Publisher: Daikokuya Heikichi (Marks 029 - seal 22-094)
Censors' seals: Mera & Murata
Seal: shita-uri (シタ売)

Related links: Waseda University - right sheet; Waseda University - left sheet;

Physical description: The Secret of Sugawara's Calligraphy (Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami) was performed at the Nakamura-za on 1850/7/13 and at the Ichimura-za on1850/7/10.

In a description of a different triptych of the same scene shown in the Lyon Collection, the Herwigs wrote: "Umeōmaru and Sakuramaru opposing their brother Matsuōmaru, who protects the carriage (kuruma) of his lord. After some pushing and pulling, the carriage has fallen apart, revealing the evil courtier (kuge-aku Fujiwara Shihei as a fearsome blue-faced (ai-guma) demon. The triplet brothers having thrown off the upper part of their checkered over-kimono, can be identified by the motifs on their red under-kimono: plum (ume, cherry (sakura) and pine matsu. Each brother has a different facial make-up and hairdo."

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Samuel L. Leiter wrote about the background to this same scene: "Pulling the Carriage Apart was originally a brief and unimportant scene placed as a curtain-raiser to the main scene of Act III. When taken over by Kabuki it was performed in the dynamic bravado style called aragoto ('wild style') and, in its perfected form, was so outstanding a vehicle that the puppet theater dropped its own method of performing the scene in favor of the Kabuki approach. The piece has since come to be considered a quintessential example of the aragoto style, a style which has long been the domain of Tokyo actors, ever since it it was created by the first Danjūrō (1660-1704) and developed by his descendants. Aragoto is known as the 'family art' (ie no gei) of the Danjūrō line and actors in this family have made a number of distinctive contributions to the play's performance. Two of the chief roles, Umeō and Matsuō (shortened forms by which Umeomaru and Matsuomaru are often called), are classic examples of the aragoto superman type though their brother, Sakuramaru, is always played in the wagoto ('gentle style') tradition, a far more delicate and romantic style. When the play is produced in the Kyoto-Osaka area the aragoto qualities are slightly reduced as that region favors the wagoto style.

Pulling the Carriage Apart has barely any plot, merely being a confrontation between Sakuramaru and Umeō with their supposed traitor-brother, Matsuō, and his lord, Fujiwara no Shihei. Yet, the thirty minutes or so that the play takes up in performance provide audiences with one of the most brilliant displays of of Kabuki spectacle and excitement. The piece is a perfect example of the printed page's limitations in conveying the magic with which theatrical performance can infuse a script. When, in 1973, spectators at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre in Washington, D.C., were treated to a performance of this work by the young actors in training at Japan's National Theatre, they understood at once why writers such as Hamamura Yonezō have called this 'the most Kabuki-esque of all Kabuki plays.' "