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Hokushû (北洲)

(T) Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Mino no Shôkurô (美濃ノ庄九郎); (BR) Ichikawa Ebijûrô I (市川鰕十郎) as Gantetsu jitsu wa [actually] Miura Arajirô (丸鉄実は 三浦荒次郎); and (BL) Nakamura Karoku I (中村歌六) as keisei Hinazuru jitsu wa [actually] Shôkurô nyôbô [wife] Kochô (けいせい雛鶴実は 庄九郎妻小蝶) in Keisei ômonguchi (けいせい廓大門), Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkôsai Hokushû ga (春好斎北洲画)
No artist seal
(Top) Iden (井伝 Izutsuya Denbei, 井筒屋傳兵衞); (BR, BL) Honsei (本清 Honya Seishichi, 本屋清七) and Izumi-Ri (泉理 sometimes read as Senri)
(H x W)
Ôban triptych
Top (one sheet): 37.4 x 25.9 cm
Bottom (two sheets):36.2 x 49.1 cm
Excellent with burnishing
Very good color, unbacked; thin spots and light grime along some edges, slight trimming of signature in R sheet, collector seal on verso of L sheet
Price (USD/¥):
$895 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: HKS67


The text of the play Keisei ômonguchi (Courtesan at the great gate of the pleasure quarter, けいせい廓大門) has apparently not survived, but it seems to be an adaptation of Ômonguchi yoroi kasane (Armored assault at the entrance to the great gate, 大門口鎧襲), written by Namiki Sôsuke in 12/1743, when it premiered at the Onishi Theater in Osaka. It features a complicated saga in which Shôkurô plots against Shinkurô, the murderer of his father. As the names and aliases on the present design suggest, some of the characters took on disguises and false identities during the intrigues fueling the plot twists.


This is an exceedingly unusual triptych, with one sheet centered above the remaining two, an arrangement rare enough to require directions. The inscription on the right floor screen in the background of the top sheet reads kono e jô-ge san mai tsuzuki (此絵上下三枚津々記), an indication that the print should be placed above the two other sheets. (The left screen on the top sheet is inscribed with Utaemon's role name, "Mino no Shôkurô.") Extremely few triptychs with one sheet centered over the other two are known, either in kamigata-e or Edo-e. The middle positioning of the top sheet is used to great effect here, as Mino no Shôkurô stands on the balcony and deftly pours oil to write a message on the floor between Gantetsu and Hinazuru. The two protagonists stop to stare, as if caught in a freeze frame.


  1. IKBYS I, no. 142