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Archive: Hokushû (北洲)

Nakamura Utaemon III as Kumagai Jirô Naozane in Ichinotani futaba gunki, Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga
Wataya Kihei (flower seal) and Ariwaradô Chûbei (mark below Wataki's flower seal; also the "Ariharadô" seal on the fan handle)
(H x W)
Deluxe ôban
35.5 x 24.3 cm
Excellent color, good condition (metallics; embossing; some trimming on left side and bottom; two expertly repaired wormholes in upper right corner; light soil on upper edge of fan and to right of mouth)
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD    Inquiry (HKS32)

The play is a fanciful adaptation based on the tales of the Genpei wars (1156-1185), the pivotal struggle between the Minamoto (Genji) and Taira (Heike) clans. Kumagai, one of kabuki's most celebrated roles, was a general serving under the legendary Minamoto no Yoshitsune who had to face in battle a youth of only 15 named Atsumori, son of a Taira general. As it happened, Kumagai owed a debt of gratitude to Atsumori's mother, for she had saved Kumagai and his wife from execution 17 years earlier. Having no other way to honor his debt, Kumagai substitutes and sacrifices his own son for Atsumori. This shocking turn of events only delays the inevitable, however, and finally Kumagai must slay Atsumori. Distraught at the loss of his son and his failure to save Atsumori, Kumagai renounces his allegiance to the Minamoto and takes the vows of a Buddhist priest.


This design was produced by the celebrated block-cutter Kasuke and is one of the notable portraits from the later period of Hokushû's career. It was issued for what was supposed to be Utaemon's farewell performance in 1825 (he did not, however, retire). To mark the occasion, the print is inscribed with Isse ichidai atari kyôgen "Once in a lifetime hit performance").

デラックス大判(35.5 x 24.3 cm)