Utagawa (Koko) Yoshitsuya (1822-1866) Inukai Genpachi fights with the Ghost Cat, from Nansô Satomi Hakkenden, 1852. Oban.
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A tremendous ghost print by the less known Utagawa School artist, Yoshitsuya. The print is probably a theatre print, judging by the make up and the date of 1852 - Satomi Hakkenden (the first drama with this title) was staged at the Ichimuraza in the 1st lunar month of 1852. The ‘Hakkenden’ are eight brothers who feature in the extraordinary 106 volume novel The Eight Dog Chronicles, written by Kyokutei Bakin (1767 - 1848). The complex plot centres on the eight offspring of a supernatural marriage between a princess and her father’s dog. Shamed at the birth of her children, she kills herself and the eight beads of her rosary, each representing a Buddhist virtue, become crystal orbs and disperse, the children being reborn to normal mothers sixteen years later. They reunite as adult ‘superheroes’, their names all beginning with the syllable for ‘dog’. (Interestingly, the direct inspiration for Bakin’s book was the Suikoden tales which inspired Kuniyoshi’s series which begins this selection.)
Satomi Hakkenden follows the adventures of the brothers as they reunite to defeat the evil Sadakane. This print is from the very famous and dramatic final scene of the play - one of the most spectacular in kabuki. Inukai Genpachi has set out to find the last, missing brother and stops at an inn, to find that the innkeepers wife and father have been consumed by a ghostly cat witch, disguised in female, human form. She betrays herself by licking fish oil from a lamp and Inukai Genpachi leaps to assist in the fight. The scene ends with the appearance of a giant demonic cat on top of the devastated house, glaring down at the warriors.
Here Yoshitsuya illustrates this famous final scene. We see the hero Inukai Genpachi fighting the ghostly cat witch on the veranda of the inn. Cherry blossom falls all around them like snow flakes. Yoshitsuya has drawn in the cat ears of the witch; Genpachi attacks her with an iron fan… a tessen.
This is a very good Yoshitsuya and very uncommon. Unbacked. Colour and impression are all fine, there is some thinning to the lower edge and a minor repair to the bottom right of the print.
Signed: Ichieisai Yoshitsuya.
25cm x 38cm.