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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

(1R) Bandô Hikosaburô IV as Murakami Shin'emon & Nakamura Utajûrô as Izumikami Rinpei; (2R) Arashi Kichisaburô III as Amako Fusamaro & Asao Okujirô I as sendô Tokuzô; (3R) Arashi Tokusaburô III as Mikuni Kojorô; (4R) Ichikawa Hakuzô as Nagasaki Shiroemon & Nakamura Tsuruzuke II as Kikawa Hashinosuke in Keisei hana ikada at the Chikugo Theater, Osaka
(1R + 4R) Shunshôsai Hokuju ga; (2R + 3R) Shunkosai Hokuei ga
Artist: No seals
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Ôban tetraptych nishiki-e
36.5 x 103.4 cm
Excellent deluxe edition (with metallics)
Good condition (unbacked; somewhat trimmed and faded; back reinforced where metallic pigments weakened paper; one lower corner restored on each sheet)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: HKE32


The plot of Keisei hana ikada (A courtesan's flower and a departing boat: けいせい花發船) is unknown to us.


This is a collaborative print (gassaku: 合作) between Shunkôsai Hokuei and his pupil Shunshôsai Hokuju (春松齋北壽). In this panoramic tableau of seven actors, standing below flowering cherry trees and arrayed in confrontation before the walls of a castle, only Arashi Tokusaburô III as Mikuni Kojorô stands alone on a single sheet. She has drawn her sword as two protagonists grip her obi (sash) in one of the more dramatic examples of obi-hiki (sash pulling: 帯引), a popular display in kabuki plays. This sort of scene was influenced by kusazuri-biki mono (armor-pulling works: 草摺引物), the most famous of which comes from Soga mono (Soga plays: 曾我物), sagas about the revenge of the Soga brothers in which Asahina restrains Soga no Gorô from rushing inopportunely into Kudô no Suketsune's compound by tugging at the tassets of his armor.

Next to Honsei's publisher's seal at the lower right of the far-right sheet, there is a second publisher's seal reading Senri (唐理). In later impressions this seal has been cut out from the block (leaving an empty rectangle in the final print), thus indicating that our example is one of the earlier known impressions taken from the block.

Complete tetraptychs such as this one are very difficult to find today among surviving kamigata-e (Kyoto-Osaka prints).

References: IKB-I, p. 232, 13-29