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Archive: Sadamasu 貞升 (later Kunimasu 國升)

Description:
Nakamura Utaemon IV as Katsuma Gengobei in Godairiki koi no fûjime, Naka Theater, Osaka
Signature:
Gochôtei Sadamasu ga
Seals:
No artist seal
Publisher:
No publisher seal
Date:
8/1837
Format:
(H x W)
Ôban
36.5 x 24.2 cm
Impression:
Excellent (deluxe with metallic pigments)
Condition:
Excellent color and overall condition (unbacked; small cut into middle of right edge)
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD

Inquiry: KMS15

Comments:
Background

Godairiki koi no fûjime (Five great powers that seal love: 五大力恋緘), the masterpiece of the playwright Namki Gohei I, is a sewamono (lit., "everyday piece," a domestic drama: 世話物) that premiered in 5/1794 at the Nishi Theater, Kyoto. It dramatizes an actual murder in 1737 — called the Sonezaki gonin giri (Five murders at Sonezaki) — of a prostitute named Kikuno and four other people by a Satsuma retainer Sada Hachiemon. From 1757, there were various puppet and kabuki productions adapting this tale, first in Osaka and then in Kyoto, and finally in Edo (1795).

Katsuma [Satsuma in Edo productions] Gengobei is in the service of the samurai Mantarô [Sentarô in Edo] from Kyûshû, who seeks a family heirloom sword (called Ryûko, "Dragon and Tiger"). A fellow retainer, Sasano Sangobei, urges Mantarô into a life of debauchery at the Fujitaya in the Dôtonbori theater district in Osaka while trying to seduce a disinterested geisha named Kikuno from the Sakaruya teahouse. As a ruse to fend off Sangobei, she asks Gengobei to pretend to be her lover, and the two fall in love. Sangobei complicates matters by also encouraging Mantarô to chase after Kikuno. Gengobei suspects Sangobei with stealing the sword and asks Kikuno to ingratiate herself with Sangobei to learn more about its whereabouts. In a gesture of affection, she writes the characters go (five: 五), dai (large: 大), and riki (strength: 力) on her samisen (a three-stringed, long-necked instrument: 三味線), the name of a Boddhisatva written by courtesans along the sealed edge of their love letters to discourage anyone but their lovers from opening the letters. Tricked by Sangobei into writing Genobei a letter of divorce, she also pretends to have given her heart to Sangobei by adding a few strokes to the characters on her samisen, changing them to read sango taisetsu ("Sango is precious"). Unfortunately for Kikuno, Gengobei believes the feigned betrayal and slays her, returning home with her head and letter. When he learns the truth, however, he hunts down Sangobei and murders him at the Matsuzakaya in Sonezaki, where he discovers the sword, later returning it to Mantarô. In a macabre scene, Gengobei attempts to commit seppuku (lit., "incision of the abdomen," ritual suicide: 切腹), but Kikuno's head sticks to his hand, preventing his suicide.

Design

Utaemon IV grips his katana (sword: 刀) as he shields himself from the rain while holding an umbrella inscribed with the characters for "Sakuraya," the Osaka teahouse in the theater district that employs Kikuno.

This design is rare, known only in a few impressions.

References: IKBYS-III, no. 112; IKB-I, no. 2-449; KNP-6, p. 348; NKE: p. 131