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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

(R) Nakamura Utaemon III as Nagoya Sanza & (L) Asao Gakujûrô I as yakko Shikazô in Keisei shinasadame, Naka Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga
No artist seal; Unread hand-stamped seal at lower right, possibly by a bookseller's shop
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
36.9 x 27.1 cm
Very good
Excellent color, unbacked; repaired wormhole right edge, and pinholes lower left edge, rubbed lower right corner
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKE36)


The plot of the play Keisei shinasadame (Courtesan: Comparing the merits: けいせい品評林) is unknown to us, but it can be counted among various kabuki dramatizations regarding the love between the courtesan Katsuragi and the playboy Nagoya Sanza (see a related example at HSD40). The roles were based on the real-life Izumo no Okuni (出雲の阿国 c. 1572 - ?), said to be the founder of kabuki at the start of the seventeenth century. Sanza's rival for Katsuragi's affections in the play is Fuwa no Banzaemon. Sanza's character appears in some respects related to the actual Nagoya Sanzaburô (名古屋山三郎, died 1603), whose real name was Nagoe Sanzaburô (later Kuemon), son of a samurai in the Nagoe clan and a mother who was a niece of the warlord Oda Nobunga (織田 信長, 1534–1582). Doubts remain, however, regarding this connection with Okuni.


The actors strike a dramatic mie (pose: 見得) set along the sort of pictorial diagonal often encountered in ukiyo-e print design. Here, the servant Shikazô (奴鹿蔵) grips the end of Sanza's sword with the aid of a cloth to protect his hands from the sharp edge. The colors in this impression are especially well presevred.

References: IKB-I, p. 98, no. 2-425; KNP-VI, pp. 250-251; KAM, p. 235(99); WAS I-4, no. 461; NKE, p. 430