Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Nakamura Shikan IV as Nuregami Chogoro from the play The Two Butterflies (Diary of the Licensed Quarters), 1864. Oban triptych.
Click here for a detailed enlargement.
This is an outstanding Kunichika triptych from very early in his career. Amy Newland devotes a whole page to the piece in her monograph, Time Past and Time Present: Images of a Forgotten Master. The dynamic composition shows three men, the central actor lavishly tattooed with images of the young Benkei, wrestling a giant carp.
Nakamura Shikan IV plays Nuregami Chogoro, a sumo wrestler who deliberately loses a bout to the older wrestler Hanregoma Chokichi - seen here on the right, played by Sawamura Tanosuke - in order to please his patron. Events ensure that the two wrestlers become blood brothers. The story concerns itself with the conflict between duty and emotion, heart and head if you will. These moral conflicts surrounding concepts of duty were prevalent in kabuki as the townspeople that made up the audience flirted more and more with their discontent at authority.
A very fine and early Kunichika triptych, colour, condition and impression are all very fine indeed.
Published by Izutsuya.
Illustrated and described on page 75 of Amy Reigle Newland's, Time Past and Time Present: Images of a Forgotten Master, Hotei Publishing 1999.
72cm x 36cm.