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Archive: Sadamasu 貞升 (later called Kunimasu 國升)

Ichikawa Ebizô V as Jiraiya, possibly in Yaemusubi Jiraiya monogatari, unknown theater, Osaka
Kunimasu ga (貞升)
Artist seal: Wasa
c. 1849-50
(H x W)
Deluxe chûban nishiki-e
25.0 x 18.0 cm
Excellent deluxe impression with furikake (sprinkling with metallics: 振掛) and karazuri ("empty printing" or embossing: 空摺)
Excellent color, good condition (very thick paper unbacked; two small, repaired wormholes in right and top margin, light creases, slight pale spotting)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: KMS28


The novel Katakiuchi kidan Jiraiya monogatari 報仇 奇談自来也説話 (1806-07) by Kanwatei Onitake 感和亭鬼武 (1760-1818), a disciple of the celebrated writer Santô Kyôden (山東京伝 1761-1816), was the first yomihon or literary reading book ("book for reading": 読本 or 讀本) to be adapted for the kabuki stage. It was also the prototype for gôkan ("combined volumes": 合巻), popular illustrated novels issued in multi-volume sets. The yomihon focused on two revenge incidents presented with an overlay of didacticism or morality lessons. Yaemusubi Jiraiya monogatari (The story of Jiraiya at the weir : 柵自来也談) premiered in 9/1807 at the Kado no Shibai, Osaka. It is one of several Jiraiya mono (Jiraiya plays) recounting the exploits of the righteous bandit Jiraiya (自来也) and his band of outlaws who, Robin Hood-like, robbed the wealthy and gave back to the poor. In one episode, Jiraiya rescues Tomokichi, a baby whose father, mother, and grandfather were murdered by the villain of the tale. Much later, Jiraiya aids Tomokichi in taking his revenge when the young man beheads his nemesis.


Ebizô V wears a hyakunichi ("One hundred days": 百日), a wig with long hair bristling upward, used in kabuki for characters such as outlaws on the run who have not shaved their pates for 100 days. In this scene, Jiraya is shown protectively holding the abandoned Tomokichi.

This is the earliest state, with extensive metallics on the robe and dramatic shading of dark clouds over a moon. The print includes a most unusual design feature — a fine decorated border at the top and bottom of the image, recalling the narrow brocade textile bands (ichimonji-jô and ichimonji-ge) used to frame painted images mounted as scroll paintings. The later state omits the decorative borders and the moon and clouds, substituting a plain gray background. Also, the publisher's seal of Kisuike is replaced with that of a secondary publisher, Daijin (大甚).

References: IKBYS-III, no. 167; NKE, p. 235