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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

Nakamura Matsue III (changing to Nakamura Tomijûrô II) as Keisei Kikugawa in Keisei chigogafuchi, Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga
Fumoto no yuki (an artist seal meaning, perhaps, "Snow in the foothills")
Publisher: Ya (Matsubaya); Block Cutter: hori Kuma (Kumazô); Printer: suri Tetsu (Tetsugorô)
(H x W)
37.0 x 25.0 cm
Excellent (deluxe with lavish metallics and embossing)
Very good color and overall condition (unbacked; slight trimming at top and bottom, small brown spot upper right corner, very light transfer marks visible in some white areas)
Price (USD/¥):

The Chigo Deeps (Chigo ga fuchi) of the play title Keisei chigogafuchi (A courtesan and deep water at Chigo: けいせい稚児淵) was located off the island of Enoshima. It was there in the twelfth century that a young temple page (chigo) named Shiragikumaru committed suicide rather than choose between two priests who vied for his love. Elements of this ancient tale were also adapted for the present play about the legendary sixteenth-century outlaw Ishikawa Goemon.


Nakamura Matsue III, a premier onnagata (lit., "woman's manner": 女方 or 女形), is commemorated here for a name change to Nakamura Tomijûrô II. He stands against a pink wood-grain background in a frame with simulated metal mounts in imitation of an ema (絵馬). Kikugawa's robe has a brass/copper-printed nine-tailed fox and a shishi (mythical lion: 獅子) decorates her obi (sash/belt: 帯).

Matsue composed the poem, which he signed with his new literary name, Keishi (it had been "Baika"): Yuzuraruru / na o kono michi no / hana no haru (Bestowed a famous name / I proceed along the path of acting / in this glorious spring season).*

This is one of Hokuei's most sought-after designs. The painstaking cutting of the background to simulate wood grain is remarkable, as is the printing of the elaborately patterned robes.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 308; IKB, no 1-486; KNP-6, p. 264; OSP, no. 156; NKE, pp. 224 and 551; *Trans: J. Carpenter