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Archive: Kunihiro (國廣)

Description:
Shichi daime (7th generation) Ichikawa Hakuen II (the Edo actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VII) as sendô (boatman) Matsuemon jitsu wa (actually) Higuchi no Jirô (船頭松右衛門実は樋口次郎) in Hiragana seisuiki, Naka Theater, Osaka
Signature:
Kunihiro ga (國廣画)
Seals:
No artist seal
Publisher:
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei)
Date:
5/1829
Format:
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
38.2 x 26.0 cm
Impression:
Excellent
Condition:
Excellent color and overall condition, unbacked
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD

Inquiry KUH46

Comments:
Background

Hiragana seisuiki (Simple chronicle of the rise and fall of the Heike and Genji: ひらかな盛衰記) was adapted from the medieval Genpei seisuiki (History of the rise and fall of the Genji and Heike: 源平盛衰記), a tale of the Genpei kassen (Genpei wars: 源平合戦) of 1180-1185 between the Heike (Taira) and Genji (Minamoto) clans. In the main plot thread, Kajiwara Heiji Kagetaka (梶原平次景高) is the wicked, ne'er-do-well younger brother of Kagiwara Genta Kagesue (梶原源太景季, died 1200) who plots to overthrow his sibling and take control of the Kajiwara fortune. The maidservant Chidori, who is in love with Genta, is also the object of Heiji's desire. During the battle at the Ujigawa, Genta allows a fellow warrior the honor of being the first to cross the river, thereby paying a debt of gratitude for that warrior's saving the life of Genta's father, Kajiwara Kagetoki (梶原景時, c. 1162-1200). Seizing the opportunity, Heiji unjustly brands his brother a coward for not grabbing the honor for the Kajiwara clan. The brothers fight and Heiji is forced to run away. Nevertheless, the accusation is too serious to ignore and Genta is disinherited by his mother. All the while Chidori sides with Genta, and the two, now in disgrace, leave together, vowing to restore Genta's honor. Chidori becomes the prostitute Umegae to support Genta in his quest to regain his inheritance. He ultimately succeeds after proving his bravery in battle, and Heiji is slain.

In another well-known subplot, the warrior Higuchi no Jirô Kanemitsu (樋口次郎兼光), in disguise as the boatman sendô Matsuemon (船頭松右衛門), seeks revenge against the Genji general Minamoto no Yoshitsune who has slain Higuchi's lord, the Heike general Kiso Yoshinaka. Matsuemon's wife, Oyoshi, cares for a young boy she believes to be their son Tsuchimatsu, who is actually Yoshinaka's son, Komawaka (the children were mixed up in an earlier melee during an attempt to assassinate Komawaka, when Tsuchimatsu was killed in his place). Oyoshi's father, Gonshirô, has instructed Matsuemon in the secret art of rowing called sakaro (backwards rowing: 逆櫓), used to position ships to great advantage during battle. Yoshitsune's allies, the Kajiwara, offer Matsuemon command of Yoshitsune's ship in exchange for teaching them sakaro, which he sees as a perfect opportunity for revenge. The Kajiwara, however, know of his intentions and send warriors to take Matsuemon prisoner. Although Matsuemon (i.e., now revealed as Higuchi no Jirô) fights off the first wave of attackers in spectacular fashion, he is eventually forced to surrender.

Hakuen II was the temporary acting name of the Edo superstar Ichikawa Danjûrô VII (1791-1859), who performed briefly in Osaka after fires destroyed all three main theaters in Edo in 3/1829. His appearance in Osaka caused quite a sensation as fans filled the theaters to watch him perform.

Design

In this scene, Matsuemon is about to confront the enemy army. He has climbed the Matsu no sakaro ("backwards-rowing pine": 松逆櫓) to survey the Kajiwara marching toward him. The simplicity of this view, from Act III of the play, isolates the actor most effectively, with the taut figure of Hakuen embodying Matsuemon's fierce bravery and determination.

This is an exceedingly difficult design to find for acquisition and is an excellent sheet with strong colors and large size.

References: KNZ, no. 477