Kuniyoshi, Ichikawa Ebizo V as Fuwa Banzaemon Shigekatsu

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) Ichikawa Ebizo V as Fuwa Banzaemon Shigekatsu in Date Kurabe Uwasa no Saya-ate, 1851. Oban.

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This is really a very beautiful thing indeed. An unusual theatre triptych  by Kuniyoshi and a masterpiece in colour, in rhythm and design. The scene is very famous and Kuniyoshi brings a wonderful animation to it. The rivals, surprising each other in the Red Light district of Edo, are set against the cherry blossoms and that extraordinary parade of street lanterns on top of the fence. Kuniyoshi shows Sawamura Chojuro V as Nagoya Sanza Motoharu, Ichikawa Ebizo V as Fuwa Banzaemon Shigekatsu and Onoe Baiko IV as Izumoya O-kuni  on the right holding the lantern.

The play is one of many that embroider the life of the anti-hero Shirai Gonpachi. The same story appears in a similar play, Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma. In Act V ("The Scabbard Touching Scene") the two male protagonists, following a long feud, meet by chance:

The cherry blossoms are adding an extra gay colour to Yoshiwara, the pleasures quarter of Edo. Night fire watchmen pass each other, one coming from the east and the other from the west.

Presently, Banzaemon, known as Teranishi Kanshin, comes along in a fancy kimono patterned with thunderbolts, wearing a wicker traveling hat. Sanza, in a similar hat and wearing the kimono with the pattern of swallows, also appears. They both praise the beauty of Yoshiwara. As they pass each other, their sword scabbards touch. Banzaemon seizes Sanza's scabbard and accuses him of not meeting Banzaemon respectfully. Sanza retorts by telling him that there are other people besides himself. Both remove their hats and disclose themselves. Banzaemon boasts that he intends to take Katsuragi as his companion even at the risk of his life. Sanza will not have it. They draw and are about to fight, when Oume, the mistress of a tea-house, rushes between them. They agree to stop their fight for the moment. However, Banzaemon swears that he cannot sheathe his sword without seeing blood. Oume suggests that they should exchange their swords, each keeping his own scabbard. When they do it, the swords are found to be almost identical. Since Sanza's scabbard was made to be identical to that of the stolen sword "Kunitoshi", it is almost certain that Banzaemon stole the sword and killed Sanza's father. However, to keep Oume in countenance Sanza decides to fight Banzaemon some other time and walks away. (Kabuki 21)

Overall, the condition is good. The print is unbacked, with some trimming and slight damage (restored) to the left edge of the left sheet. Restored damage to the left edge of the centre sheet.  Colour is excellent and the impression fine.

Publisher: Ebi-ya Rinnosuke.