Kunisada, 36 Selected Flowers - Pheasant Eye

Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) Thirty-six Selected Flowers: Pheasant Eye, 1862. Oban.

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A striking and vibrant print celebrating one of the great dramas and legends of the kabuki stage and of Japanese warrior folklore, Soga Monagatari. Dramas or dances based on the famous revenge of the Soga brothers are called Sogamono. On the 28th of May 1193, the brothers Soga Goro Tokimune and Soga Juro Sukenari killed Kudo Saemon Suketsune, who had assassinated their father in 1175. This revenge occurred during a hunting party organised at the foot of Mount Fuji by Kudo, with Minamoto Yoritomo as the guest of honour. The Soga brothers became kabuki heroes during the 18th century and countless dramas were produced with their story as the main focus. It was a custom for all the Edo theatres to produce a sogamono as a new year program. The two characters are highly stylised: Goro is impetuous, wears a costume decorated with butterflies and is usually played in the aragoto style, vigorous and bombastic. Juro is refined, wears a costume decorated with plovers (chidori) and is usually played in the wagoto or gentle style.

This print depicts the warrior Kobayashi no Asahina, played by the kabuki actor Nakamura Shikan IV in his characteristic red make up. He is generally seen in a dance drama, Shofudatsuki Kongen Kusazuri. The armour-pulling scene is a famous sogamono, a dance related to the tales of the Soga brothers. The hot-blooded Goro, believing his brother to be in mortal danger, rushes out from hiding to his defence, only to be held back by the legendary warrior Kobayashi no Asahina, who pulls the lappets of Goro's armor to stop the impetuous young man. Asahina's costume usually bears the crest of a crane in a circle while Goro's costume bears the Soga butterfly crest. A contest of strength ensues and the armour is torn in two pieces. We see Kobayashi here in his cranes costume paired with the plant, pheasant’s eye… I am guessing that there is a link between the two bird names which completes the mitate.

This is a famous print, often reproduced. Colour and impression are fine, there is some slight wear to the print, otherwise excellent condition. Embossing to collar, extensive mica to top half of print.

Publisher: Hiranoya Shinzo.

Blockcarver: Yokogawa hori Take.

24 x 35.5 cm.