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Archive: Sadahiro II (二代目 貞廣)

Otani Tomomatsu I as Tamamo no Mae and (L) Jitsukawa Enzaburô I as Abe no Yasunari in Tamamo no Mae asahi no tamoto, unidentified theater; Series: Shiki no uchi; Title: Aki
No artist seal; unidentified hand-stamped seal in far left margin, possibly reading
No seal
Circa 1860s(?)
(H x W)
Chûban diptych nishiki-e
26.0 x 38.0 cm
Very good; deluxe edition, with metallics (simulated gold), burnishing (shômenzuri), and gauffrage (karazuri)
Excellent color; Very good condition (never backed; margins intact at top and left; tiny pinhole in margin above bow)
Price (USD/¥):

SOLD (Ref #SDR02)


This play premiered in 1806 in Osaka as a jôruri (puppet play), with the first kabuki adaptation following in 1811. Lady Tamamo no Mae is a nine-tailed fox who kills a young woman named Hatsuhana whom the Emperor Toba has summoned to court, then assumes her identity and gains employment as a lady-in-waiting. She soon becomes the Emperor’s favorite concubine.

She later joins Prince Usugumo (the emperor's elder brother) in a plot to dethrone Toba and agrees to use her supernatural powers to aid him. When the Emperor becomes ill, the chief astrologer of the court, Abe no Seimei [Yasunari], discovers — thanks to a gust of wind blowing out all the candles and lamps in the palace — that in the absence of illumination Lady Tamamo emits light from her body. He is convinced that she is a fox-witch whose pernicious magical powers have afflicted the emperor. He sets a trap by inviting her to a prayer service to save the emperor, where he unsheathes a magical sword, threatening to slay her. Forced to admit her true identity, she assumes her fox form — a spectacular, nine-tailed, white fox — and flies away, with Yasunari in pursuit. During her escape Tamamo no Mae takes on various forms, including a country girl, a masseur, a god of thunder, a man, a street girl, a courtesan, and once again Lady Tamamo.


sealThis dramatic design depicts Tamamo no Mae when confronted by Yasunari as powerful beams of light emanate from her body. She holds a folding fan (ôgi) whose open blades seem to echo the effect of the fantastical illumination. Yasunari wears a hat patterned with a constellation, a sign of his profession as an astrologer. He has pursued Tamamo no Mae and now grips an arrow that he intends to set in his long bow and shoot at the wicked fox.

The series title appears in the red cartouche at the top left and reads Shiki no uchi (A set of four seasons). The print title is given in the metallic roundel at the top left, with the character for Aki (Autumn).

This is a superior example of Sadahiro's design. The seal straddling the far left margin and image border is hand-stamped, possibly reading Ôtsubo (a book seller's?) — see detail at right.

References: NKE, p. 640