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Archive: Hokushû (北洲)

Ichikawa Ebijûrô I as Tôken Jûbei in Benimurasaki aide someage, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga
Artist's seal: Hokushû
No seals
1/1822 (mitate)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.0 x 26.0 cm
Good impression (deluxe with mica added to hair)
Good color (very slightly faded); Good condition (unbacked; very slight soil and creasing; a few small stray marks; some expertly repaired wormage and paper losses along left edge; slight trimming along top)
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD (Ref #HKS27)

Benimurasaki aide someage was a drama involving the chivalrous commoner (otokodate) Tôken ("China Dog") Jûbei, a confederate of the legendary Banzuin Chôbei (a friend and ally of Shirai Gonpachi).


There is only one recorded performance of this role by Ebijûrô I, which was in 8/1816. The style of this composition places it much later, probably in the spring of 1822 when the actor returned to Osaka from Edo. It would seem to be a mitate or "imaginary" design.

There are at least five states of this memorable design with varying combinations of inscribed names, plus an edition of crepe prints (chirimen-gami-e). The present impression appears to be the third state, printed on a yellow ground, and omitting the block cutter Kasuke's seal and the actor's name.

The poem, by Hôrai Sanjin, has been translated as: "Even the goddess of spring might be tempted; the prawn of the Island of the Immortals is the greatest actor of the spring."* There is a pun on the word for "prawn" (ebi), the first character in the actor's name.

References: IKBYS-I, no. 111; WAS I-4, no. 155; KNZ, no. 141; OSP, no. 39; TWOP, no. 21* [English translation]