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Archive: Nobusada (信貞)

(R) Ichikawa Shinnosuke (市川新之助) as musume (daughter: 娘) Otsuru (お鶴) and (L) Arashi Kitsusaburô II () as Awa Jûrôbei (あわ十郎兵衛) in Kuninamari futaba oizuru at the Naka no Shibai, Osaka
Nobusada ga (信貞画)
Artist Seal: Unread
Wataya Kihei (綿や喜兵衛)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.6 x 25.6 cm
Very good
Very good color and condition, not backed; filled pinhole upper left in fence
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: NBS01


Kuninamari futaba oizuru (The country dialect of a young bud in a pilgrim's robe: 国訛嫩笈摺) premiered in 7/1808 in Osaka, derived in part from the ningyô jôruri (puppet play: 人形淨瑠璃) Keisei Awa no Naruto (A courtesan at the Whirlpools of Awa: 傾城阿波の鳴門) of 1768, itself a revision of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's puppet play Yûgiri Awa no Naruto (Yûgiri and the whirlpools of Awa: 夕霧阿波鳴渡) staged in 1712 at the Takemoto, Osaka. Chikamatsu's play was the first of the so-called Awa no Naruto mono (plays about Awa no Naruto: 粟の鳴門物) whose main theme featured the courtesan Yûgiri of the Ôgiya in the Shinmachi pleasure district in Kyoto. However, there was a subplot in some of these plays that was the subject of Narusada's print design.

Awa no Jûrôbei is a samurai who is searching for his master's treasured sword. He moves from Awa to Osaka with his wife Ôyumi, leaving their infant daughter Ôtsuru in the care of her grandmother. In order to gain access to places where the stolen sword might have been hidden, he joins a gang of thieves. He has no luck, however, and the search goes on for 10 years. Then, when some of the thieves are arrested, Jûrôbei and Ôyumi prepare to flee. In the Dondoro Taishi no Monzen no ba (Scene of the temple town near Dondoro Taishi), as Jûrôbei and Ôyumi prepare to depart, Ôyumi hears the songs of a Buddhist pilgrim and the ringing of a bell. A young girl on a pilgrimage has called at the house. Ôyumi gives her an offering of rice and invites her in when she learns that the girl is from Awa, their home province, in search of her parents from whom she was separated when she was a small child. Realizing the girl is her daughter Ôtsuru, Ôyumi is torn between embracing Ôtsuru versus maintaining her secret life to protect her child from becoming ensnared in their illegal affairs. Ôtsuru's devotion is heartrending, but Oyumi decides to tells her unsuspecting daughter to go back to her grandmother and await her parents' return. When Ôyumi offers Ôtsuru some traveling money, Ôtsuru refuses, saying she has enough for the road. Ôyumi brushes the dust from Otsuru's robes and tenderly fixes a hairpin in her hair before the girl departs. In a famous and heart-felt scene, admired especially in the puppet version, Ôtsuru grabs a strip of cloth that Ôyumi is holding and tries to pull her mother toward her in a highly-stylized choreographed sequence. After Ôtsuru leaves, her song slowly fades and Ôyumi is grief-stricken. Finally, she resolves to go after her daughter.


In this scene we see the "pilgrim" Ôtsura near her father. A diptych by the artists Ashiyuki and Yoshikuni also shows, on an adjacent left sheet, Ôyumi standing on the other side of the fence, which spans both sheets. Thus both parents must have been on stage at the same time when their daughter arrives. However, as far as is known, Nobusada's design is a single sheet (for example, the full width of the fence is shown).

This design bears a kiwame censor seal ("approved": 極), very unusual for an Osaka print. It is unclear whether this seal was included to comply with the censorship system in full force in Edo because an edition of this print might have also be sold in that city.Alternatively, there might have been rare instances in the 1820s when the kiwame seal was used in Osaka for prints sold locally.

Nobusada was active circa 1819-1830s. Early on he used the geimei (art name: 芸名) Yukinobu, then introduced the name Nobusada around 1823, and finally by at least 11/1824 used only Nobusada. He appears to have been a pupil of Yanagawa Shigenobu I (一代目柳川重信) when that Edo artist visited Osaka in 1822. Prints by Nobusada are very rare.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 234; TWOP, p. 238, cat. no. 271