Arashi Rikan II [嵐璃寛] as the shogun Tarō and on the left Nakamura Karoku I as Takiyashi and Ichikawa Sukejurō IV as Yasukata in <i>Sōma Tarō hyōbundan</i> [相馬太郎...]

Ryūsai Shigeharu (柳斎重春) (artist 1802 – 1852)

Arashi Rikan II [嵐璃寛] as the shogun Tarō and on the left Nakamura Karoku I as Takiyashi and Ichikawa Sukejurō IV as Yasukata in Sōma Tarō hyōbundan [相馬太郎...]


20 in x 14.25 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ryūsai Shigeharu
Artist's seal: Yamaguchi uji Shigeharu
Lyon Collection - another example of right-hand sheet
Waseda University - right panel
Waseda University - left panel
Princeton University Art Museum

Compare this diptych with the one linked above to another example of the right-hand panel which is also in the Lyon Collection. In that print the figure is wearing a robe saturated with what we believe to be the expensive Prussian blue pigment. That might mean that the other single panel is from a more deluxe edition.


There are any number of unusual elements to this diptych: the Western sense of recession; the sense of scale, the elegant surimono-esque printing. Another point of interest is what is not there. There are no inscriptions on the right-hand panel, almost as though one of this compositions panels was an afterthought.


This diptych commemorates a performance at the Naka Theater in Osaka in 11th month of 1832.

"Soma Tarō hyōbundan (The story of Tarō, heir to the Soma clan) was an adaptation of the tale of Masakado. The story combines elements of history and legend set In the tenth century when the ambitious Taira Masakado (Soma no Kojirō, died 940), a general formerly with the regent Fujiwara Takahira, moved to take control of the eight eastern provinces and declare himself emperor. Takahira's warriors defeated Masakado and later his son Soma Tarō when he attempted to avenge his father's death.

Theatrical dramatizations featuring Masakado typically feature supernatural happenings and transformations. Masakado could create ghostly clones of himself, and his castle ln Soma (near Sendai) was said to be haunted by the spirits of his retainers. Both Soma Tarō and his sister Takiyashi-hime - the subject of the better known play Shinobi yoru koi wa kusemono (Appearing Concealed in the Guise of Love) premiering four years after Shigeharu's print was published - were also capable of sorcery. Takiyashi-hime takes the form of another human (a courtesan) and then, most famously, transfigures herself into a giant toad.

The figures are set within a Shijō-style landscape that, for single-sheet kamigata-e, comprises an unusually large percentage of the total composition. Heitarō is shown looking down upon Takiyashi and Yasukata as he leans against a most curiously shaped boulder -- one that emblemlzes the socerer's [sic] ability to take the form of a giant toad.

The narrow uncolored area at the far lower left edge of the right sheet is due to one of the color blocks not matching the width of the keyblock - a common occurrence in ukiyo-e. These areas were usually trimmed off, which is why many polyptychs have slightly askew keyblock lines where the sheets join. It ls preferable to have a more complete sheet, even when the colors blocks don‘t fill in the edges of the keyblock designs.

The rock at the upper right appears to be in the shape of a toad - symbolic of Sōma Tarō's and his sister Takayashi's skill in necromancy.

The impression in Waseda University (Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum collection) has the hand-stamped seal of the brilliant block cutter Kasuke, Identified as the surimono hangishi (surimono woodblock master), confirming that the design was prepared with the greatest skill possible during this period of Osaka printmaking.

Ex. Okada collection (a celebrated private Japanese collection not seen in public for more than 70 years until its recent dispersal).

The above information was provided by


This diptych is illustrated in color in Osaka Prints by Dean J. Schwaab, p. 157.

Arashi Rikan II (二代目嵐璃寛: 9/1828 - 6/1837) (actor)
Nakamura Karoku I (初代中村歌六) (actor)
Ichikawa Sukejūrō IV (四代目市川助寿郎) (actor)
Kyōto-Osaka prints (kamigata-e - 上方絵) (genre)
actor prints (yakusha-e - 役者絵) (genre)
Taira Masakado (平將門) (role)