Kunichika, Ichikawa Danjuro as The Oil Thief

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Onoe Kikugoro as Taira no Tadamori and Ichikawa Danjuro as the Oil Thief, 1888. Oban triptych.

Click here for a full-size image.

A fine theatrical triptych from Kunichika showing Onoe Kikugoro as Taira no Tadamori and Ichikawa Danjuro as the Oil Thief in a play that tells the story of a mysterious monster haunting a temple precinct. The emperor Shirakawa was perturbed by the appearance of a demon in the forest around the temple. It was reported that the demon had a fearful spiked head and breathed fire. The warrior and samurai Taira no Tadamori was charged with confronting the creature and defeating it. Tadamori lays in wait for the awful apparition but instead of confronting a demon, Tadamori sees a harmless old monk in a straw hat carrying a lantern. It turns out that the impoverished monk was in the habit of creeping through the woods at night stealing a little oil from each of the standing lanterns in the trees. Tadamori apprehends the oil thief and is handsomely rewarded by the Emperor for his bravery.

This is a famous story and play. Several artists (notably Yoshitoshi) have illustrated the piece with much the same convention as Kunichika uses here. The print is rich in browns and blacks and the strong vertical axis of the trees, and there is beautiful monochrome printing in the sketchy lanterns, the silvered lines of rain and the delicacy of the robes.

Full size, very fine impression and colour, the clothes of Tadamori are burnished with black lacquer. Condition is outstanding, no marks or stains.

36cm x 71cm.