Kunikazu, The Crossroads at Gappo

Utagawa Kunikazu (active 1849 - 1867) Arashi Kichisaburo, Nakamura Daikichi, Jitsukawa Enzaburo and Arashi Rikan III in The Crossroads at Gappo, 1856 - 58. Deluxe Chuban triptych.

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These Osaka triptychs are like fine jewellery boxes - they sparkle and crackle with fine deluxe detail, rich colours, tight, deeply incised key lines and fabulous and inventive compositions all locked together like a stained glass window. This lovely print is no exception. Kunikazu was particularly skilled at these fantastical compositions.  The scene depicted is from one of the popular revenge tragedies of kabuki theatre, The Crossroads at Gappo. A Picture Book of the Crossroads at Gappo was a sensational novel appearing in 1804. It was further sensationalised by the famous kabuki playwright Tsuruya Nanboku IV. The plot will be familiar to any kabuki aficionado… revenge, bloodlust, family feuds etc. I recommend the synopsis at Kabuki 21 for a full explanation. 

Kunikazu sets the warring families beneath richly coloured maple trees. The figure on the right is fighting with an iron fan, called a tessen. The fighting and encouraging figures tumble against an undulating background of hillocks that mimics the bodies of the protagonists. The colours, the quality of the printing, the design and the richness of the scene are all terrific. There is extensive use of metallic pigment.

53cm x 26cm.