Hana fubuki uta no nadokoro (A Song of flowers, snow, & clear water: 花曇歌清氷) was based on the Ashikaga-period historical drama Shin Usuyuki monogatari (A new tale of Usuyuki: 新薄雪物語). The latter play was written for the puppet theater by a quartet of playwrights: Takeda Koizumo, Matsuda Bunkodo, Miyoshi Shoraku, and Kogawa Hanbei. First performed in 5/1741 at the Takemoto-za, Osaka, it was based on a 1632 novel Usuyuki monogatari concerning three swordsmiths (Munemasa, Kuniyuki, and Kunitoshi) and the love affair between Princess Usuyuki and Sonobe Saemon. There were earlier kabuki productions of the story that probably influenced the puppet version, and yet another kabuki adaptation took place at the Hayakumo no Shibai in Kyoto about three months after the Osaka puppet performance. The various plays on the story are called Usuyuki mono. The essential version was Shin Usuyuki monogatari, a Ashikaga-period (1338-1573) historical drama, with performances given throughout the Edo and Meiji periods in the Osaka theaters. Considered a masterpiece of jidaimono (history plays: 時代物), it is one of the few such dramas still performed today in its entirety.
The lovers Usuyuki-hime and Sonobe Saemon become enmeshed within a complicated conflict involving a shogun's ceremonial sword (made by Rai Kuniyuki). Tsumahei, a footman to Saemon, is assigned to perform a dedication of the sword, which is to be given to the Kiyomizu Temple on the behalf of the shogun. However, the villain and rival swordsmith Dankurô inscribes a curse on the sword to bring shame and ruin upon Saemon. Various intrigues follow, including charges that Usuyuki and Saemon were involved with the curse upon the sword (and therefore upon the shogun). Afterwards, the lovers' parents sacrifice their lives for their children, committing seppuku (ritual suicide: 切腹). Ultimately, Dankurô vows to mend his ways and allies himself with Usuyuki against the corrupt Akizuki Daizen, a rival suitor of Usuyuki and master to Dankurô.
Making copies of published prints by followers of a master or leading artist was a time-honored mode of honing one's skills. In Kamigata, surviving copies were frequently quite well done, and at their best, they demonstrated a mature expertise, as is the case with our paintings made after prints by Hirosada. Typically, an artist would model the nigao (facial likenesses: 似顔) closely upon the originals, but occasionally liberties would be taken and a different actor's face would be substituted as a kind of mitate (analog image: 見立). In our set, the paintings portray different actors in three of the five portraits. Also, the upper part of each painting displays cherry blossoms instead of the series title or role name. The costume patterns, however, remain fairly consistent across all the sheets, although there are obvious color changes.
The actors and roles in the prints and paintings shown above are as follows:
||(Asao Yosaku (浅尾与作) as Sonobei Saemon (園部左衛門)
||Asao Yosaku as Sonobei Saemon
|| Asao Yoroku I (浅尾与六) as Karasaki Shiga no Kami (幸崎志賀ノ守)
||Kataoka Ichizô (片岡市蔵) as Karasaki Shiga no Kami
||Arashi Rikan III (嵐璃寛) as Katsuragi Minbu (葛城民部)
||Arashi Rikan III as Katsuragi Minbu
||Ichikawa Sukejûrô (市川助寿郎) as Sonobei Hyôe (園部兵衛)
||Unidentified actor as Sonobei Hyôe
||Nakamura Daikichi III (中村大吉) as Ushiyuki-hime (うすゆき姫)
||Sawamura Kitô (沢村其答) as Usuyuki hime
One other actor and role in the same series is not included here — Ôkawa Hashizô I (大川橋蔵) as Akizuki Daizen (秋月大膳).
The prints all have excellent color and are in very good condition. The paintings are rendered in a deluxe manner with saturated colorants and metallic pigments and are also in very good condition.
In our experience, even a single pairing of a print and painting is difficult to find, so we offer here a rare opportunity for an Osaka-print collector to acquire a suite of paired designs from the same series.
Provenance: Philadelphia Museum of Art (deaccession of paintings, 1997)
References: IKBYS-IV, nos. 135-140