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Archive: Hirosada (廣貞)

(R) Nakamura Utaemon IV as Katô Masakiyo (L) Nakamura Tomosa II as sendô [boatman] Yijibei in Keisei Kiyome no funauta at the Naka no Shibai, Osaka
No artist seal
No publisher seal
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e diptych
25 x 36.4 cm
Excellent deluxe edition with metallic printing (furikake 振掛 with simulated gold and silver), embossing, burnishing
Very good color and condition (thick paper, unbacked; a few tiny repaired wormholes, glue residue in left margin of R sheet)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: HSD55


Katô Masakiyo (加藤清正) was the theatrical stand-in for the historical Katô Kiyomasa (清正加藤 1562-1611), the son of a blacksmith who was legendary for his ferocity in battle, earning him the nickname kishôkan (demon general). He commanded the second division in the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi's first Korean invasion of 1592. Kiyomasa led troops in Korea again in 1597, but was recalled the next year following Hideyoshi's death. Although he next allied himself with Tokugawa Ieyasu — one of Hideyoshi's generals and the eventual founder of the hereditary dynasty of Tokugawa shoguns — he ran afoul of Ieyasu after opposing a plan to murder Hideyoshi's son, Hideyori. Kiyomasa's death in 1611 was suspicious, possibly the result of poisoning on orders from Ieyasu. In kabuki, Masakiyo's tale takes an ominous turn when circumstances force him to meet with Kitabatake (a theatrical stand-in for Tokugawa Ieyasu, whose direct or explicit portrayal in theater or literature was banned by the shogunate). Kitabatake gives Masakiyo a poisoned cup of saké, which he drinks, knowing it will be fatal. Masakiyo nevertheless manages to stay alive for months to protect his lord until finally succumbing to the deadly brew.

The plot of Keisei kiyome no funauta (An innocent courtesan and a sailor’s song: けいせい清船諷) is unknown to us, but it is undoubtedly an adaptation of historical events and figures in the kabuki and bunraku genre called jidaimono (lit., "period piece" or historical drama: 時代物).


The scene shown here appears in Act III. Note the dramatic drawing of the surging Hokusai-like waves enveloping the action as Yojibei climbs upon the stage scenery and Masakiyo knocks over another adversary with his naginata (halberd).

Besides the examples in Waseda University and Ikeda Bunko cited below, there are two impressions in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, one without a publisher's mark (Acc #11.35583a-b) and one with the seal of Kawaoto (Acc #11.41988a-b).

References: WAS-6, no. 230; IKBYS-IV, no. 337