Kunichika, Scene from Kabuki Play Showing the Ghost of Koheiji

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Scene from Kabuki Play Showing the Ghost of Koheiji, 1870’s. Oban Triptych.

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We have a pair of very striking mid-career kabuki ghost triptychs, each with a leading onnagata role in the exhibition. This first one shows the story of the ghost of Kohata Koheiji who, having been tortured and drowned by his unfaithful wife Otowa and her scheming lover, takes revenge upon them from beyond the grave.

In the print we can see the ghost of Koheiji on the left, recognizable by his deathly pallor, advancing on the faithless couple, hands outstretched and covered in blood. In the far right inset is pictured his wife, clutching a roll of tissue (a symbol of sexual precocity), the break in the visual narrative suggesting a break in time. In the centre panel, her lover fends off the ghost with his sword.

This is a great triptych, typical of the kabuki woodblock prints at the height of their popularity of which Kunichika was the undisputed master throughout the 1870’s and 1880’s. The central figure has a beautiful shomen zuri, burnished pattern in the black robe and the background is encrusted with mica. Pristine colours and impression and very fine condition. Three sheets attached.

Signed Kunichika hitsu.

37cm x 75cm.