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Archive: Kunishige (國重)

Arashi Rikaku II (嵐璃珏) as I no Hayata (猪の早太) in Yorimasa nue monogatari (頼政鵺物語), Chikugo Theater, Osaka)
No artist seal
Carver/Printer/Publisher/Print-seller: Shinsuke (新助)
(H x W)
Deluxe chûban nishiki-e
24.6 x 17.8 cm
Excellent deluxe edition with metallic printing (furikake 振掛 using simulated gold and silver)
Excellent color, and condition (metallics, thick paper never backed; paper flaw in top margin)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #KSG03)


Yorimasa nue monogatari (Tale of Yorimasa and the nue: 頼政鵺物語) features the legend of Yorimasa slaying the mythical nue in 1153 — as recorded in the Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike; first quarter 13th century). Yorimasa, who was a formidable archer, spied on the emperor's palace roof a strange winged-creature with an ape's head, tiger's claws, badger's (tanuki) back, and snake-head tail. As the emperor was suffering from a life-threatening illness, Yorimasa suspected that the nue was the cause. A single arrow took down the beast, whereupon Yorimasa's retainer (I no Hayata Hironao 猪の早太寛直 also known as Tadazumi) delivered the coup de grâce with his sword.

The artist signing here as Kunishige (active c. 1847-55) is not the same as Nagasaki (Takigawa) Kunishige, the earlier name used from 1821 to 7/1826 by the well-known master Yanagawa (Ryûsai) Shigeharu (1802-52; active 1821-49).


In Kunishige's design we see the actor Arashi Rikaku II (嵐璃珏) as I no Hayata (猪の早太) adorned in full samurai regalia. This is a deluxe print is an okubi-e ('large head picture: 大首絵) with brilliantly printed expensive pigments, including extensive metallics (copper-rich and zinc-rich brass) and and richly saturated colors. The margins are intact, and are especially wide at the top and left.

References: WAS-VI, no. 267