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Kunihiro (國廣)

Description:
(R) Ichikawa Ebijûrô I as Asahina Tôbei and (L) Nakamura Utaemon III as Hyôsuke in Gokusaishiki musume ôgi, Naka Theater, Osaka
Signature:
Kunihiro ga
Seals:
Artist seal: Kunihiro
Publisher:
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞)
Date:
7/1826
Format:
(H x W)
Ôban diptych nishiki-e
38 x 52.9 cm
Impression:
Very good
Condition:
Excellent color, good condition (unbacked; small well-repaired wormholes along bottom edge)
Price (USD/¥):
$795 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: KUH28

Comments:
Background

Gokusaishiki musume ôgi (The brilliant colors of a young girl's fan: 極彩色娘扇) was written by Chikamatsu Hanji, Kitamado Goichi, Takemoto Saburobei, and Miyoshi Shôraku for the Takemoto puppet (Bunraku) theater, Osaka, in 1760. It was one of many Onatsu-Seijûrô mono (Onatsu-Seijûrô plays) based on a reputed real-life incident around 1661 involving a clerk to an innkeeper in Himeji, Banshû, who was executed after stealing money and running away with his master's daughter.

In the Bunraku dramatization, the nearly deaf otokodate (lit., "standing man," a chivalrous commoner: 男伊達 or (男作) Asahina Tôbei, in debt to the proprietor of the Daimatsu-ya, is desperate to raise 50 ryô (gold coins: 両) to ransom the proprietor's daughter from her servitude as a courtesan, for she wants to marry a disinherited samurai named Seijûrô, an employee in her father's shop. One night, during a fierce storm, Tôbei comes to the aid of a seriously ill blind man, Terakoya Hyôsuke, whom he has never met. When Tôbei notices a bulging purse under the Hyôsuke's kimono, he asks for a loan, but is refused. Tôbei demands the money and they struggle until Tôbei's sword is accidentally unsheathed, wounding Hyôsuke. In a rage at the shedding of blood, Tôbei finishes off Hyôsuke and takes the purse, but is also shocked to discover that Hyôsuke was his half-brother carrying a letter from their mother Oko asking Hyôsuke to give the 50 ryô to Tôbei (money raised by Hyôsuke's devoted wife Omaki after unwillingly divorcing Hyôsuke and marrying the wicked Danpachi, a wealthy merchant, in exchange for the gold). When Danpachi comes upon the murder scene, he recognizes Tôbei and the two begin dueling with swords. As the storm rages on, a thunderclap knocks Tôbei senseless. Danpachi says, in soliloquy, that Tôbei must have killed Hyôsuke, and reasons aloud that slaying a murderer would be seen by the authorities as a justifiable response rather than a private act of vengeance against the former husband Omaki truly loves. Tôbei, however, is actually awake and hears it all because the thunderclap has cured his deafness. He quickly slays Danpachi. Soon after, Omaki and her brother arrive, but Tôbei knocks out their lantern before they recognize him and flees in the darkness.

Design

In this animated scene, Tôbei and Hyôsuke struggle to control the purse containing the gold coins. In a clever adaptation of a standard kabuki tug-o'-war, such as obi-hiki (sash pulling: 帯引) or kusazuri-biki (armor-pulling: 草摺引), the protagonists grip the long looped cord, with one end tied around Hyôsuke's neck and the other tied to the purse that Tôbei clenches between his teeth. Above the protagonists and the up-ended janôme-gasa (a popular type of kasa called "snake's-eye umbrella": 蛇の目傘), stylized lightning bolts (three end in a fret pattern or saya, 紗綾) and heavy slanting rain produce a dramatic atmosphere for this notable murder scene.

References: KNP-6, p. 146; WAS IV-6, no. 317