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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

[Nakamura Matsue III aratame (changing to) Nakamura Tomijūrō II (中村松江 改 中村富十郎)] as keisei [courtesan] Kikugawa (けいせい菊川) in Keisei chigogafuchi (けいせい稚児淵), Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga
Fumoto no yuki (こしじのゆき an artist seal meaning, perhaps, "Snow in the foothills")
Publisher: Ya (や probably Matsubaya 松葉ヤ); Block Cutter: hori Kuma 彫熊 (Kumazô); Printer: suri Tetsu 摺鉄 (Tetsugorô)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
35.6 x 23.8 cm
Excellent deluxe impression with metallics and embossing
Very good color; backed, slight trimming top/bottom margins; rebuilt lower margin, faint grime evident in unprinted areas
Price (USD/¥):

The Chigo Deep Water (Chigo ga fuchi: 稚児淵) 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 (中村松江), a premier onnagata (lit., "woman's manner": 女方 or 女形), is commemorated here for a name change to Nakamura Tomijûrô II (中村富十郎). 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" (慶子 it had been "Baika" 梅花): 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: 譲らるる名を此道の花の春).* The poem is difficult to see in the full-image photo, as the metallic pigment does not contrast dramatically with the background. Please refer to the detail above right, where the entire poem is visible, although even this close-up image does not quite capture all that the eye can see.

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, including extensive karazuri (embossing: 空摺) of the white robe.

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