Kunichika, Ichikawa Danjuro as Jiraiya in Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Ichikawa Danjuro as Jiraiya in Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari, 1881. Oban triptych.

Click here for a full-size image.

What a terrific print this is - especially notable is the evocative ‘green man’ on the right hand sheet with the scroll. The print is a scene from the wildly popular play, Jiraiya Goketsu Monogatari. The piece commemorates a performance with Danjuro VIII in the role of Jiraiya. Jiraiya is a ninja who uses shapeshifting magic to transform himself into a gigantic toad. In legend, Jiraiya is the son of the Lord of Ogata, in his youth he was called "Young Thunder". At the death of his father and the destruction of his castle, Jiraiya became a robber and hearing of the existence of a very rich old man in Shinano, he started out to rob him, but he was overtaken by a snowstorm, and had to take refuge in a hut inhabited by an old woman. In the night he attempted to murder her, but his sword was broken to pieces, and the woman appeared transformed into a man, Senso Dojin… it is this magician and hermit who appears in leaves on the right-hand sheet.

His arch-enemy was his one-time follower Yashagoro, later known as Orochimaru, a master of serpent magic whom he defeats amid much stagecraft and drama.  The story has become the subject of many prints, novels, dramas and more recently films. In Naruto, a popular manga and anime television series, Jiraiya appears as a ninja with the ability to summon giant toads. Alongside the series' versions of Tsunade and Orochimaru, he is part of a trio of legendary ninja known as the Densetsu no Sannin ("Legendary Three Ninja”).

The centre and right of the sheet shows Jiraiya and Sensodojin - here played by Nakamura Shikan VIII. Dojin is passing on the secrets of a magic scroll. The very modern lightning division on the left sheet is a device to show a break in time and space and reveals a quite different scene, the young Jiraiya and his mother? The actors here are Iwai Hanshiro and Bando Takematsu.

The print is in three unattached sheets, unbacked and in good condition. Colour and impression are very good and there is mica in the background, a fine chequerboard pattern in shomen-zuri to Jiraiya's robe and embossing to Dojin’s beard.

70 x 35 cm.