Yoshitaki, Scene from Zoho Futatsu Domoe (Ishikawa Goemon)

Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841 - 1899) Scene from Zoho Futatsu Domoe (Ishikawa Goemon), from a mitate on the Zodiac, Early 1860’s. Chuban.

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Here is another mitate by Yoshitaki… a scene from a performance that may never have taken place. The character is the great robber thief, Ishikawa  Goemon pictured here in typical pose on the top of the Sanmon Gate. Goemon was a prolific thief and Robin Hood figure who attempted an assassination on Mashiba Hideyoshi. In the kabuki play, Goemon has taken up residence in the vermillion temple of Nanzenji. The scene depicted in the print is described by the kabuki resource kabuki21.

The Sanmon gates start to rise on stage, revealing the first floor of the structure, a purification stone basin and … a pilgrim, who is none other than Mashiba Hideyoshi. He writes on one of the pillars the following sentence: "The number of thieves is countless, as the sands of the shore of the beach of Shichirigahama". He sees Goemon through the reflection in the water of the stone basin. The thief recognises his sworn enemy and quickly flings a dagger at him. Hideyoshi parries the attack with the handle of the basin dipper. Both actors strike their final pose: Hideyoshi challenges Goemon, who has one foot on the balcony guardrail, one hand on his sword and a menacing face, ending one of the shortest but most spectacular Kabuki plays.

In reality, Goemon was captured and sentenced to be boiled in oil with his young son, in an iron kettle still called a goemonburo (Goemon Bath), the subject also of many grim ukiyo-e. Here Yoshitaki shows the detail of this final scene, Goemon challenging the world… Ishikawa Goemon, the king of thieves, delivers one of the most famous lines in kabuki:

"A peerless view. Magnificent. The spring view is worth a thousand gold pieces, or so they say, but 'tis too little, too little."

The circular motif in the top right is the symbol for ‘rabbit’… one of the Japanese zodiac characters.  This print is a mitate, remember, and Yoshitaki is using Goemon as a stand-in of one of the signs of the houses. The rabbit is a symbol of cleverness and self-devotion, and in the past it was a symbol of Spring… The scene takes place on a spring day, hence the blossom in the foreground, and if ever there was a symbol of self-devotion it would certainly be Ishikawa Goemon!

This is a very fine, chuban print from a Yoshitaki series. Colour, impression and condition are all fine and there is a burnished shomenzuri pattern to Goemon's coat. The print is unbacked. Metallics across the detailing of the pavilion and the cartouche.

24 x 17 cm.