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Archive: Hokushû (北洲)

Description:
(1R) Ichikawa Ebijûrô II (市川鰕十郎) as Ki no Haseo (紀ノ長谷雄); (2R) Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Kujaku Saburô (孔雀三郎); (3R) Fujikawa Tomokichi (藤川友吉) as Kobai-hime (紅梅姫) in Tenmangû aiju no meiboku (天満宮花梅桜松), Kado Theater, Osaka
Signature:
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga (春好斎北洲画)
Seals:
Artist Seal: Yoshi no yama (よしのやま)
Publisher:
No publisher's seal (probably privately printed and distributed)
Date:
1/1828
Format:
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.5 x 77.0 cm
Impression:
Excellent deluxe edition on thick paper
Condition:
Excellent color and very good condition, unbacked; one repaired wormhole in upper corner of each sheet, small incised mark above actor's shoulder of L sheet
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD

Inquiry: HKS45

Comments:
Background

The play Tenmangû aiju no meiboku (Love under the plum, pine, and cherry at the heaven filling shrine: 天満宮愛梅松桜) appears to be related to, or an adaptation of, the famous puppet and kabuki play Sugawara denju tenarai kagami (Mirror of transmission and learning of Sugawara's Calligraphic Secrets: 菅原伝授手習鑑) based on legends surrounding the life of Sugawara Michizane (845-903: 菅原道真), also known as Kan Shôjô (菅丞相). For instance, the "plum, pine, and cherry" in our translation of the Tenmangû title probably alludes to the triplets Umeômaru, Matsuômaru, and Sakuramaru, respectively, in the Sugawara play. There is also a likely connection between the play title and both the historical and dramaturgic Sugawara Michizane with respect to the Shinto shrine Kitano Tenmangû (北野天満宮) in Kyoto, which the imperial court built and dedicated to Sugawara Michizane in 986.

Design

This is a late work by the venerable Hokushû, and certainly one of his most celebrated and sought-after designs. Sumptuously printed, with metallic pigments, it features a dramatic contrast between the heavily printed figures and the more subdued, receding-perspective background.

There is no publisher seal on any of the sheets, and given the deluxe production values, it seems safe to claim that this triptych was produced for private distribution in much the same manner as were surimono. Most likely the event calling for this extraordinary triptych was the shûmei ("succession to a name": 襲名) of the actor Ichikawa Ichizô II, who acceded to the name Ebijûrô II.

Impressions of this triptych, complete and with such fine colors and overall excellent condition, are very difficult to find. Truly a superb example of Osaka printmaking at its finest!

References: IKBYS-I, no. 173; OSP, p. 132, no. 118; KNP-6, p. 175; IKB-I, 456