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Archive: Isshûsai Kunikazu (一珠齋國員)

(R) Nakamura Kanjaku II as Saitô Kuranosuke and (L) Nakamura Tamashichi I as tabakoya (tobacco seller) Sankichi in Keisei somewake tazuna, Chikugo no Shibai, Osaka; from the series Jûnishi no uchi; Print Title: Mi
Kunikazu ga
No artist seal
No publisher seal
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e diptych
24.7 x 26.0 cm
Excellent deluxe edition with metallics and embossing
Excellent color and very good condition (Two tiny filled wormholes lower right corner of R sheet and lower left corner of L sheet)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: KKZ08


Keisei somewake tazuna (A courtesan's reins dyed in different colors: けいせい染分総) written by Nagawa Harusuke and the superstar actor Nakamura Utaemon III (under his pen name Kanazawa Ryûgyoko), premiered in 1/1822. It was adapted, as were quite a number of other plays, from Koi nyôbô somewake tazuna (Love and a wife's reins dyed in different colors: 恋女房染分手綱) first staged in 1751. The earlier play was itself a revision of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's Tanba yosaku matsuyo no komuro bushi. It has been reported that the accomplished dramatist Harusuke became so enraged at what he believed to be a poorly constructed play that he attacked his co-writer Utaemon with a knife.

The story involves a shop owner and his older brother who stop conspirators from stealing the treasures of the Yurugi daimyô family, and features Sankichi, a tabakokiri (tobacco cutter: 煙草切), who emerges as the hero of the drama. In this scene Saitô Kuranosuke (齋藤蔵之助) has conjured up a giant serpent as tabakoya Sankichi (たばこや三吉) falls back in fear.


The red-striped cartouche on the left sheet bears the series title Jûnishi no uchi (Twelve Signs of the Zodiac: 拾二支之内) and print title Mi (Snake: 巳).

This "serpent diptych" is an excellent example of late-period, deluxe-edition printmaking in Osaka. Kuranosuke's elaborately patterned robes (including gold-color brass), the giant serpent, and Sankichi's animated "flop" combine to make this a memorable design by Kunikazu.

References: IKB-I, p. 131, no. 3-145; KNP-7, p. 58