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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

Nakamura Shikan II (中村芝翫) as Tsukushi Gonroku (筑し権六) in Keisei hako denju (けいせい筥伝授), Naka Theater, Osaka
Shunbaisai Hokuei ga (春梅齋北英画)
No artist seal
Honsei 本清 (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
38.5 x 26.0 cm
Excellent deluxe printing with metallics)
Very good color, good condition, unbacked; grime evident in snow and sky areas, two small filled wormholes, rubbed
Price (USD/¥):

Keisei hako denju (Instruction in a courtesan's secrets: けいせい筥伝授), which premiered in 1/1804 at the Kado Theater, Osaka to great acclaim, was written by Segawa Jokô II (1757-1833) and others. It was an adaptation of Namiki Shôzô's (1730-73) drama Kyûshû kanegamisaki of 1759. Segawa Jokô's script has apparently not survived, although the artist Shôkôsai Hanbei (松好齋半兵衛 act. c. 1795–1809) did produce an e-iri nehon (illustrated playbook: 絵入根本) in 1807 with the actor Arashi Rikan I (嵐璃寛 using his earlier name Arashi Kitsusaburô II 嵐橘三郎) as Gonroku, a role that also appeared in the play Enshoku akisame monogatari (A risque version of the tale of Akisame: 艶色秋雨 [物] 語) in 9/1804 at the Kyoto Shijô Kitakawa Theater. Other roles included Isoroku and Nagaoka Yusai. There was as well a woodblock-printed e-zukushi banzuke (playbill: 絵尽番付 a Kamigata term for small scenario booklets of 12 to 20 pages with brief texts and images) that had a stencil-colored (kappazuri: 合羽摺) cover. The booklet was published by Gyokko Ken (玉光軒) for the premiere in 1804, and it also illustrated another play on the program — Sugata no hana musume Dôjôji (Appearance of a flower — the maiden at the Dôjô Temple: 容艶花娘道成寺).


Shikan stands in a snowy mountain pass as a river cascades behind him. He holds an enormous fukiya (blowgun: 吹き矢) used for hunting. The sleeve of his red underrobe has a dragon printed in brass metallics, as is the pattern on his blue skirt.

This is one of Hokuei's visually compelling full-length portraits. Another impression is in Schwaab, Osaka Prints, no. 165 (see OSP ref. below).

References:IKB-I, no. 2-439; KNP-6, p. 299; OSP, no. 165