Kunisada, Ishikawa Goemon in Sanmon Gosan no Kiri - Kakemono

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865)  Ishikawa Goemon in Sanmon Gosan no Kiri, c. 1850's. Kakemono-e.

This is a rare and stunning diptych of a famous incident in Japanese folklore and kabuki theatre. A quite fabulous print, rich in colour and detail, beautifully printed and complete with both sheets intact. Normally this print survives as the single, upper sheet only. Kunisada depicts one of the famous scenes from the life of Ishikawa Goemon (Goymon), a bandit and robber chief from the sixteenth century.

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 starts 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 recognizes 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 goemonburo (Goemon Bath), the subject also of many grim ukiyo-e. Here Kunisada shows the detail of this final scene; the poses of the figures, the flung dagger and the water dipper.

The print is full size, in perfect condition, strong colours and fine impression with no flaws. Exceptional.