Ashiyuki, Actors in the Play Momochidori Naruto no Shiranami

Gigado Ashiyuki (active 1813 - 1833) Actors in the Play Momochidori Naruto no Shiranami, 1825. Oban Triptych.

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A superb Osaka triptych by Ashiyuki. It shows the actors in the right hand sheet, Ichikawa Danzo V as Hagizuka Narutonosuke and Bando Jutaro I as Hamana Oribe; in the middle, Otani Tomoemon II as Ogata Rikimaru and Asao Gakujuro as Fukushima Saemon; and in the left hand sheet Arashi Kitsusaburo II as Hakata no Shimano at the Naka Theater, Osaka. The plot of Momochidori Naruto no Shiranami appears lost. We can admire though the fabulous composition, the daring use of the hand-held andon and the outrageous formalisation of that searchlight beam!

John Fiorillo comments that:

Ashiyuki designed at least six compositions for this production. This design is an example of two or more publishers sharing the production of polyptychs, which was fairly common in kamigata-e. Ashiyuki's dramatic scene features a lantern (andon) held aloft to illuminate the protagonists with a widening cone of light rimmed with pink and contrasted against a black night sky. The mixed postures (mie) of the actors produce a rhythmic tableau, as they variously hoist the andon, grip their swords (katana), kneel behind a straw raincoat, and clench a long banner between the teeth or pull it with a fist. 

By the mid 1820s most Osaka artists had moved on from the blockier style of figure drawing to more fluid portrayals, and it is interesting to compare the merits of the younger Ashiyuki with those evident in this work.

It is a terrific piece, the dramatic shaft of light is a design used by Kunisada in many of his stage pieces and dramatically breaks up the picture. The colour and impression are all fine, the condition overall is excellent, a centre fold just visible and wormhole to the bottom of the right sheet. Elsewhere, embossing to parts of the robes and other areas of overprinting.

I am indebted to Jerry Vegder of Prints of Japan for the following, interesting observation:

The first word of the title to this play in Japanese transliterates as Momochidori (百千鳥). One translation of this term could mean "100 chidori". The word "chidori" is often translated as plover or snipe. This bird is frequently paired with images of dramatic waves and that is what is used to decorate the outer robes of the standing figure. According to Merrily Baird on page 103 of her Symbols of Japan "...the chidori is an auspicious symbol for the warrior class. The first ideograph used to write the word means 'one thousand,' and the second is a homophone for the words 'seize' and 'capture.' Because the bird overcomes high waves and winds to migrate, it is seen as an emblem of perseverance and the conquering of obstacles."

A copy of this print is in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.  

The three publishers are as follows: Right, Kichi and Honsei (Honya Seishichi); Middle, Toshin; Left Honsei (Honya Seishichi).

77 x 37.5 cm.