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

Print: Iwai Kumesaburō III (岩井粂三郎) as Hisakata-hime (久方姫), Arashi Kichisaburō III (嵐吉三郎) as Kimura Tatewaki (木村帯刀) on the right; Nakamura Tomijūrō II (中村富十郎) as Sangoku no Tayū (三国太夫), actually the Earth Spider Spirit (三国太夫実ハ土蜘の精) in the center; Nakamura Nakasuke II (中村仲助) as Kongōtarō (金剛太郎), Onoe Kikujirō II (尾上菊次郎) as the woman pilgrim Akitsuki (女六部秋月) on the left  

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Dates: 1853,created
Dimensions: 28.75 in,13.75 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Ebisuya Shōshichi
(Marks 039 - seal 26-007)
Date seal: 7/1853
Censors' seals: Watanabe, Mera, Ox 7

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Waseda University - right panel; Waseda University - center panel; Waseda University - left panel; Achenbach Foundation; Hankyu Culture Foundation - right panel; Hankyu Culture Foundation - center panel; Hankyu Culture Foundation - left panel; Kabuki21 - biographical material about Sakurada Jisuke III;

Physical description:

These are characters from the play Kana Kyōdai Musume no Adauchi performed at the Ichimura-za in 7/1853.

We know that a character named Uesugi Hisakata-hime appeared in Osaka in a performance in 2/1782 of the play Keisei Kogane no Shachihoko (けいせい黄金鯱) or 'Courtesans and the Gold Shachihoko'. However, we may be able to trace this play back to as early as the fall of 1722.

The character of Hisakata-hime appears in a Yoshitaki triptych from 1/1868, but there the play is Keisei hana no shiranami.

Our frustration in trying to identify the figures in this triptych is great. We know their names, but know next to nothing about their background stories nor their relationships, one to the other. But we will continue to dig deeply and in time we hope something will be revealed to us.

One of the major problems in doing research on prints based on kabuki themes is that often the plays and the characters are lost to us today. Besides that, it is possible that this grouping represents a fanciful alignment of casts that never acted together, even though the staff at the Museum of Fine Arts have given us the title of the play itself.

What we do know is that from the title of the play the word 'adauchi' represents 'revenge' and most likely that of female, sister samurai. As best we can tell the play was written by Sakurada Jisuke III (三代目桜田治助: 1802-77) in collaboration with others. (JSV)

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The figure of Sangoku no Tayū (三国太夫) in the center as the spirit of the earth spider is interesting since Sangoku no Tayū translates as 'a tayū (or high-classed courtesan) of the Three Kingdoms', a reference to a tale from ancient China. (JSV)