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Archive: Shigeharu (重春)

(R) Arashi Rikan II as the yakko (servant: 奴) Yokanpei; (C) Nakamura Utaemon II as Abe no Yasuna; (L) Sawamura Kunitaro as Kuzunoha in Ashiya Dôman Ôuchi kagami, Kado Theater, Osaka
Gyokuryûtei Shigeharu ga
No artist seal
Wataki (Wataya Kihei, 綿屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Ôban triptych nishiki-e
36.4 x 76.0 cm
Very good
Very good color and overall condition (embossing, unbacked; a few expertly repaired corners, album crease along right edge of left sheet, three tiny light stains, oxidized mica on center sheet)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: SGH14


Ashiya Dôman Ôuchi kagami (An imperial mirror of Ashiya Dôman: 芦屋道満大内鑑) was written by Takeda Izumo II for the Takemoto bunraku in 1734. (Kabuki introduced its first staging in Kyoto the following year.) Takeda's dramatization was related to the fictional genre known as irui konin banashi ("stories of marriage between humans and animals"), reflecting the wide-spread belief in kitsune-tsuki ("fox possession").

The main tale features "Kuzunoha," the white fox saved by a twelfth-century nobleman named Abe no Yasuna. The grateful creature takes the form of a beautiful maiden (in some versions a princess) and look-alike sister of Yasuna's former lover. Kuzunoha gives birth to their son, Dôji, destined to become the famous astrologer Abe no Seimei. In the end, Kuzunoha is compelled to reclaim her fox nature, and so, with much regret, she abandons her husband and son after writing a famous farewell poem. The two most admired episodes are the lamentation (kudoki) scene in which the fox prepares to her child and writes the poem, and the child-separation (kowakare) scene when she looks upon Dôji for the last time.

Yokanpei was a servant of Abe no Yasuna. In one scene, Kuzunoha conjures Yakanpei, a fox-döppleganger for Yokanpei who has taken Yokanpei's human form.


Okada (a celebrated private Japanese collection not seen in public for more than 70 years until its recent dispersal ― a blockbuster event in the world of kamigata-e; see KAM in Bibliography)


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