Kunisada, Iwai Kumesaburo III and Kataoka Nizaemon VIII in Hachijin Shugo no Honjo

Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) Iwai Kumesaburo III and Kataoka Nizaemon VIII in Hachijin shugo no honjo, 1861. Oban diptych.

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Like the previous set, this is a discrete pair of prints from a short series. On this occasion a commemoration of the performance of Hachijin shugo no honjo at the the Nakamura-za from the 23rd of the 9th month of 1861.

The play is one of grinding complexity, the summary at the outstanding, kabuki21 is very good.  The two characters featured in these two sheets are the principals from the performance. The left sheet shows Hinaginu, played by the male actor Iwai Kumesaburo III who is in love with Kazuenosuke. At the end of the play her hopes of a happy marriage are doomed by the announcement in a letter from Kazuenosuke that they must divorce because her father is the enemy of his own father. She cannot bear the grief and cuts her throat in despair.

The right hand sheet shows Kataoka Nizaemon VIII as the schemer and politico, Hida no kami Masakiyo, in reality, Kato Kiyomasa a Japanese daimyo. He was born in 1562 and was a relative of Hideyoshi, whose service Kato Kiyomasa entered upon reaching manhood and soon distinguished himself in battle. In his later years, he tried to work as a mediator for the increasingly complicated relationship between Tokugawa Ieyasu and Toyotomi Hideyori. In 1611, en route by sea to Kumamoto, he fell ill, and died shortly after his arrival. It was rumoured that he was poisoned by Tokugawa Ieyasu. He became, under the thinly disguised name of Sato Masakiyo, the hero of many kabuki dramas, the most famous one being this play.  In order to avoid the Shogunate censorship, the identity of all historical characters were disguised (more or less lightly).

It is Masakiyo who is the central character in the plot. A fine Kunisada diptych of great quality. The two sheets are in a way connected by the flight of cuckoos indicating the sadness of the story. The prints are deeply embossed and beautifully printed, with mica sprinkled on the top margins. The black robe on Masakiyo displays nicely polished patterns of shomenzuri. From the last year or two of Kunisada’s life, this is a brilliantly executed pair of prints of great richness and beauty.

The colour and impression and quality of printing is very fine. Condition very good indeed over all.

Published by: Ebiya Rinnosuke.

50 x 36 cm.