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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

(R) Arashi Rikan II as ryôshi [fisherman] Namishichi and (L) Iwai Shijaku I as Terute no Mae in Hime kurabe futaba ezôshi, Naka Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga
No artist seal
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Deluxe ôban diptych nishiki-e
37.5 x 50.4 cm
Excellent, deluxe edition with metallic pigments
Good color and condition (slight fading and trimming; two backed insect tracks at edges of adjoining sides)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HKE38)


Hime kurabe futaba ezôshi (Picture-book comparison of twin blades and the princess: 姫競双葉絵草紙) was one of the Oguri Hangan mono or Oguri mono ("Oguri Hangan plays"). The plots were based on various legends about Oguri as well as Chikamatsu Monzaemon's (近松門左衛門) 1698 puppet play Tôryû Oguri Hangan (當世流小栗判官) and the military chronicle Kamakura daizôshi ("Great copybook of Kamakura": 鎌倉大絵双紙) concerning the master of the Hitachi Castle, Oguri Hangan no Sukeshige (小栗判官助重), and Terute-hime (照天姫). Oguri's father Oguri Mitsushige, a provincial daimyô, failed in his revolt against the ruling Ashikaga clan, whereupon father and son were forced into hiding.


In one version of this scene, the fisherman Namishichi, Oguri's former retainer, attempts to hide Princess Terute in his house, but she is abducted by his corrupt brother-in-law and carried away by boat. Namishichi vows to commit seppuku ("Incision of the abdomen" or ritual suicide: 切腹) in exchange for Terute. A river of blood flows from his abdomen and the dragon gods hear his plea, whereupon strong winds blow the princess's boat back to shore. The dying Namishichi and his brother-in-law continue fighting, and the last we see of Namishichi is his lifeless body spread-eagled upside down on the side of a cliff. Afterward, Terute, now a maid for a wealthy rice merchant in Yokoyama (横山), reunites with Oguri, who is in the area searching for a stolen family heirloom.

Hokuei's depiction of the fight scene is compelling, with an agitated sea and roiling waves splashing against the boat carrying Terute. Namishichi, using an oar to steady himself, presses his left knee into the back of his brother-in-law. In this compact composition Hokuei effectively captures the emotional impact of a climactic scene in this popular jidaimono (history play, lit., "period piece": 時代物).

References: IKB-I, p. 98, 2-249; KNP-VI, p. 264