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Archive: Hokuei (北英)

Description:
Arashi Rikan II (嵐璃寛) as Akogi Heiji (あこぎ平次) in Seishû Akogi ga ura (勢州阿漕浦), Wakamiya Theater, Nagoya
Signature:
Shunbaisai Hokuei ga (春梅齋北英画)
Seals:
Artist Seal: Hokuei (北英)
Carver Seal: hori Kuma 彫熊 [Kumazô]
Printer Seal: suri Toyo 摺豊 [Toyosaburô]
Publisher:
Honsei (本清): Shimanouchi Shinsaibashi Hanmoto Honsei Hachimansuji Higashiiru (島ノ内心齋橋板元本清八幡筋東入ル)
Date:
6/1835
Format:
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
34.8 x 24.6 cm
Impression:
Excellent
Condition:
Excellent color, unbacked; slightly trimmed; a baker’s dozen expertly filled worm holes, mostly near the bottom edge, (only one tiny repaired hole at bridge of nose), L and R edges slightly uneven, light rubbing LL corner.
Price (USD/¥):
Comments:
Background

Seishū Akogi ga ura (Provincial power at Akogi Bay: 勢州阿漕浦) premiered at the New Year in 1808 as a one-act, two-scene puppet play at the Mitama Kyônai Theater in Osaka. It was a revision of the fourth act in Tamuramaro Suzuka kassen that first appeared in 1741 at the Toyotake-za, Osaka. The tale of the fishing prohibition derives from the play Akogi by Zeami Motokiyo (1363-1444) and a kojôruri titled Akogi no Heiji.

The play involves the ailing mother of Akogi no Heiji, who has been ill for three years. Akogi hears of a rare fish called yagara ("arrow shape": 矢柄) that will supposedly help her. Unfortunately, fishing in Akogi Bay has been banned because it is part of the imperial shrine at Ise, so Akogi must resort to poaching at night. When he casts his net, he brings up a precious heirloom sword. Although determined to continue fishing, he is stopped by a local poacher named Heiga Jirozô. The two struggle, but all Heiga manages to take is Akogi’s raincoat and sedge hat, which has his name on it. Later, the village headman named Hikosaku confronts Akogi, who throws him out of his home. Akogi then confesses to his wife Oharu, also telling her that he recognizes the sword as one named "Totsuka," sought by her father, the general Tamura. In the denouement, Heiga kills Hikosaku to prevent him from reporting Akogi, confessing that he once worked for Akogi’s father and thus remains loyal to the family. He also announces that his foster father was responsible for the loss of the sword, which was why he was fishing in the bay. When police finally arrive, Heiga gives himself up, taking the blame for stealing the sword and thereby freeing Akogi.

Design

Hokuei has portrayed Akogi wearing his yellow straw raincoat and sedge hat. He carries the treasure sword "Totsuka" wrapped in a red, blue, and gold brocade cover decorated with cloud forms and cresting waves. The blockcutting and printing are especially fine, with credit given in the dual seal (placed below the tripartite publisher’s seal of Honsei) to the carver Kumazô and printer Toyosaburô.

Kamigata prints depicting actors performing in provincial venues are rare. The performance identified here, from 6/1835 at the Wakamiya Theater in Nagoya, would be consistent with kabuki records showing that Rikan II visited Nagoya from the fourth to the sixth lunar months of 1835.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 263; WAS-4, no. 512; IKB, no. 25-174; KNP-6, p. 299; OSP, no. 167; NKE, p. 708