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Archive: Sadamasu 貞升 (later Kunimasu 國升)

Description:
(R) Nakamura Shikan III as Minamoto [no] Ushiwakamaru and (L) Nakamura Utaemon IV as Benkei in Kichi Hôgen sanryaku no maki, Naka Theater, Osaka
Signature:
Gochôtei Sadamasu ga
Seals:
Printer Seal: suri Toyo; Other seal: [...?]hashi Norimune
Publisher:
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
Date:
9/1837
Format:
(H x W)
Ôban
37.0 x 51.6 cm
Impression:
Excellent (deluxe with metallic pigments)
Condition:
Excellent color; very good condition (metallics, embossing, thick paper; lightly backed, small marks, minor rubbing, paper flaws)
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD

Inquiry: KMS13 

Comments:
Background

Kichi Hôgen sanryaku no maki (Kiichi Hôgen's three-volume book of tactics: 鬼一法眼三略巻) premiered as a ningyô jôruri (puppet play: 人形淨瑠璃) in 1731; kabuki followed in 1732. It recounts the earlier life of Minamoto no Yoshitsune, 1159-1189: 源義経) from his boyhood to the celebrated confrontation with Musashi-bô Benkei (武蔵坊 弁けい) the warrior monk (a yamabushi, literally, mountain sleeper: 山伏). The play, derived in part from the Muromachi-period chronicle Gikeiki or Yoshitsune ki (Chronicles of Yoshitsune: 義経記), presents the young hero in disguise as Torazô, who is traveling with his retainer Kisanta, disguised as Chienai. They are on a mission to steal a book of military tactics compiled by the noted strategist Yoshioka Kiichi Hôgen allied with the enemy Heike (Taira) clan. When Hôgen's daughter Minazuru-hime falls in love with Yoshitsune, her compassionate father, whose political sympathies actually lie with the Genji (Minamoto), gives the book of tactics to Yoshitsune and then takes his own life in expiation for being disloyal to the Heike.

The scene depicted here is a theatrical version of one of the most commonly depicted musha-e (warrior prints: 武者絵) — the chance encounter and ensuing fight on the moonlit Gojôbashi (Gojô Bridge) between Benkei and Ushiwakamaru (an earlier name for Yoshitsune). Earlier versions of the story place the protagonists at the Gojô Tennin Shrine and on the balcony of the Kiyomizu Temple, but a play (Hashi-Benkei, Benkei at the Bridge; first half 15th century) and other sources relocate the scene to the Gojô Bridge, with Ushiwakamaru set upon what is called sennin-giri (defeating 1,000 persons). In the version seen in this and other ukiyo-e prints, however, it is Benkei who has embarked upon sennin-giri in order to acquire a suit of armor worthy of his remarkable size and strength (legend has it that he was seven to eight feet tall and strong as 100 samurai). Benkei has agreed to give 1,000 swords to the swordsmith Kokaji Munenobu in exchange for forging the armor, and when he arrives at the Gojôbashi, he is only one shy of his goal. Although the teenaged Ushiwakamaru appears to be an easy mark, he unsheathes his katana (small sword: 刀) and parries Benkei's every thrust. Dumbfounded at Ushiwakamaru's prowess, Benkei drops his naginata ("long sword," a halberd or long spear: 長刀 or 薙刀), concedes defeat, and pledges his allegiance to the "marvelous youth."

Design

Benkei holds an enormous naginata as he prepares to attack Ushiwakamaru. The youth reveals himself by lifting his white cloak or veil from his face and shoulders, a last gesture before fighting. Benkei carries his "seven gruesome weapons," including a huge two-pronged arrow (karimata), three-prong grappling hook on a shaft, large-blade saw, oversized mallet, a smaller type of sickle or scythe (kama), and an axe.

The design was printed with subtle bokashi (gradation, lit., "standing off": 暈) and extensive use of metallics, worthy of surimono production. The red hand-stamped seal of the printer suri Toyo (スリトヨ) is in the lower left corner of the left sheet, along with the publisher Honsei's (本清) cartouche.

摺り最上(金摺りデラックス版)色彩最上級、保存状態も非常に良い(金摺り、エンボス加工、紙厚。薄い裏打ち、小さい汚れ、多少の擦れ、傷跡あり。)

References: WAS-IV, no. 4-585