The play appears to be one of many adaptations based on actual events involving the life of the great general Toyotomi
Hideyoshi (1536-98), who ruled much of Japan by 1585, nearly unifying the country by the end of 1591. These jidaimono
(historical dramas) are categorized as Taikôki mono ("plays about the taikô,"
Hideyoshi's self-selected title as ruler). The name "Konoshita" (a variant of another of his names, Kinoshita
Tôkichi) in the play title is thus a dramaturgical alias for Hideyoshi (Edo-period playwrights were forced by censorship
edicts to disguise the real names of historical personages connected with the ruling samurai families). Quite a number of the
Taikôki mono also included additional scenes featuring the notorious outlaw Ishikawa Goemon.
A triptych by Hokushû for this same performance (see IKBYS-I reference) identifies Hideyoshi by the name Konoshita
Tôkichi and depicts him in a spear fight with an adversary named Yamaguchi Kurojirô while the general Oda Nobunaga (Harunaga
in the play; 1534-82) watches the action. The historical Hideyoshi was a brilliant strategist for Nobunaga, winning several key campaigns.
Upon Nobunaga's death in 1582, Hideyoshi tracked down the turn-coat general Akechi Mitsuhide (responsible for the defeat and death of Oda), killing
Akechi and taking over Oda's armies.
This dynamic diptych is an example of Hokushû's transitional style at the start of the 1820s, when blockier figure
drawing was just beginning to evolve into more curvilinear shapes and the figures were better integrated with background
elements. The protagonists confront one another as they pose in combative mie. Jikokumaru prepares to fight using
a long staff (bô), while Chôdomaru has drawn his long sword (katana). A distant rocky terrain
and cascading waterfall are visible between them, with opposite but complementary diagonal switchbacks nicely bridging the
two sheets. Except for the pine tree on the far right, the landsacpe is painted in monochromatic grays that contrast effectively
with the bolder chromatic treatment of the actors.
Provenance: Okada Isajiro (岡田伊三次郎), a celebrated private Japanese collection not seen in public for more than 70 years until its gradual dispersal starting in the year 2000 — a blockbuster event in the world of kamigata-e; see KAM).
References: IKBYS-I, no. 78-79; WAS I-4 , no. 127; OSP; no. 25; KNP-6, p. 66; IKB-I, no. 1-405