Yoshikuni, Kabuki Scene

Jukodo Yoshikuni (active 1813 - 1831) Kabuki Scene, 1822. Oban Diptych.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

This rare print comes from the same archaic period as the preceding print. Like that, it is in the larger oban diptych format and similarly displays the vigorous (sometimes called "strong hand") style of the Osaka School at the time. Yoshikuni was a hugely important figure, being not only an artist and printmaker but a poet in his own right and an important figurehead in the literary and poetic coteries that were a feature of the cultural scene in Osaka in the first half of the nineteenth century.

The high point of Yoshikuni’s career was the period 1820-22, the period of this print and coinciding with the return to Osaka of Nakamura Utaemon III. His prints from this period are known to be exceptional and to show a particularly “strong hand’. This print shows a scene very similar in many respects to the Ashiyuki above. It is likely that the scene depicts the famous scene between Mashiba Hideyoshi and the famous Robin-Hood bandit chief of legend Ishikawa Goemon, as here Hideyoshi can be seen holding the water dipper favoured by ukiyo artists.

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.

The print is a full size oban diptych - it is rare to find both sheets so well preserved. Colour and impression are fine, condition also very good.

51 x 31cm.