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Kunihiro (國廣)

(R) Nakamura Utaemon III as Yaoya Chômatsu and (L) Asao Kunigorô III as Dôraku Oshô Rikyô in Omoto Kamematsu hiyoku no kanzashi, Kado Theater, Osaka
Kunihiro ga
No artist seal; Block Cutter: Kôichi
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e
40.0 x 26.5 cm
Very good color and condition (unbacked; small creases, minor marks)
Price (USD/¥):
$450 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry (Ref #KUH12)


The plot of Omoto Kamematsu hiyoku no kanzashi (おもと龜松中村笄: The lovers' comb: Omoto and Kamematsu) is unknown to us. However, given the role names, this play appears to be a variant of Futatsu chôchô kuruwa nikki (Diary of two butterflies in the pleasure quarters: 双蝶々曲輪日記). The central theme of that drama involves an attempt to thwart the ransom of a courtesan named Azuma by the evil samurai Hiraoka Goemon (also the wrestler Chôkichi's patron) in favor of the wrestler Chôgorô's sponsor, Yogorô, whom Azuma loves. Yogorô bribes Chôgorô to throw a sumô match against Chôkichi in the hope of enlisting the latter's help in stopping Goemon, but even after being handed a false victory, Chôkichi refuses to violate his patron's wishes. Afterwards, however, in a scene in which Chôgorô prevents Chôkichi from committing seppuku (ritual suicide, lit., "incision of the abdomen": 切腹) over shame for falling into dissipation, the two wrestlers become "brothers," and then Chôkichi returns the favor by aiding Chôgorô in his escape after he murders four men trying to steal Azuma for Goemon.

The Kabuki nenpyô (see KNP reference below) indicates that the roles named in the play title (not portrayed on Kunihiro's print) were performed the leading actors of the day: Omoto by the kabuki star Nakamura Matsue III (later Tomijûrô II; 1786-1855, a premier performer of women's roles, onnagata 女方 or 女形), and Kamematsu by Nakamura Karoku I (another high-ranking actor who specialized in onnagata roles; 1779-1859). We have, of course, in the present print, Nakamura Utaemon III (1778-1838), arguably the finest actor in Kamigata at the time, along with Asao Kunigorô III (1769-1835), who was admired for his performances as katakiyaku (villains: 敵役) and more specifically, jitsuaku ("real villains": 実悪).


The two actors are engaged in a choreographed fight scene (tachimarari: 立回り) before a shop kiosk that appears to read Kishiya (嬉し野). The fallen lantern is inscribed with the character ("knife" or "cut": 刀). Rikyô wears a headband (hachimaki: 鉢巻) tied around his head and knotted in the front, a style known as chônin no mukô hachimaki (townsman's front-headband). Chômatsu, whose upper robe has fallen to his waist, wears a hand towel (tenugui: 手ぬぐい) around his neck. He raises his short sword (wakizashi: 脇差), threatening to slash Rikyô.

Kunihiro was particularly adept at drawing figures in confrontational poses, legs spread wide and bodies set for action, as in this design. Note, too, the unusual expression on Rikyô's face.

The seal of the block cutter Kôichi (hori Kôichi; see detail at right) is near the publisher's seal.

For another scene from this play, with actors in other roles, see ASY27.

References: WAS I-4, no. 372; IKB-I, no, 1-453; KNP-6, p. 157