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Archive: Shigeharu (重春)

Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Akizuki Daizen (秋月大膳) in Hanafubuki uta no nadokoro (A song of flowers, snow, & clear water: 花雪歌清水), Kado Theater, Osaka
Ryûsai Shigeharu ga (柳齋重春画)
No artist seal
Wataki ワタキ (Wataya Kihei 綿屋喜兵衛)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.8 x 26.0 cm
Excellent color, unbacked; restored UL corner
Price (USD/¥):

Hana fubuki uta no nadokoro (A Song of flowers, snow, & clear water: 花曇歌清氷) was based on the Ashikaga-period (1338-1573) historical saga adapted for a play titled Shin Usuyuki monogatari (A new tale of Usuyuki: 新薄雪物語). The latter drama was written for the puppet theater by a quartet of playwrights: Takeda Koizumo, Matsuda Bunkodo, Miyoshi Shoraku, and Kogawa Hanbei. First performed in 5/1741 at the Takemoto-za, Osaka, it was based on a 1632 novel Usuyuki monogatari concerning three swordsmiths (Munemasa, Kuniyuki, and Kunitoshi) and the love affair between Princess Usuyuki and Sonobe Saemon. There were earlier kabuki productions of the story that probably influenced the puppet version, and yet another kabuki adaptation took place at the Hayakumo Theater in Kyoto about three months after the Osaka puppet performance. The various plays about the story are called Usuyuki mono. The essential version was the aforementioned Shin Usuyuki monogatari, with performances given throughout the Edo and Meiji periods in the Osaka theaters. Considered a masterpiece of jidaimono (history plays: 時代物), it is one of the few such dramas still performed today in its entirety.

The lovers Usuyuki-hime and Sonobe Saemon become enmeshed within a complicated conflict involving a shogun's ceremonial sword (made by Rai Kuniyuki). Tsumahei, a footman in service to Saemon, is assigned to perform a dedication of the sword, which is to be given to the Kiyomizu Temple on the behalf of the shogun. However, the villain and rival swordsmith Dankurô inscribes a curse on the sword to bring shame and ruin upon Saemon. Various intrigues follow, including charges that Usuyuki and Saemon were involved with the curse written on the sword (and therefore upon the shogun). Afterwards, the lovers' parents sacrifice their lives for their children, committing seppuku (ritual suicide: 切腹). Ultimately, Dankurô vows to mend his ways and allies himself with Usuyuki against the corrupt Akizuki Daizen, a rival suitor of Usuyuki and master to Dankurô.


Shigeharu has portrayed Akizuki Daizen (秋月大膳), one of the villains in the drama who schemes to destroy the families of the lovers Usuyuki and Saemon. His pose and garments make for a rather dramatic graphic design. Daizen wears the long, split or divided trouser (umanori 馬乗り, "horse-riding" hakama) worn by samurai and court men. Shigeharu used straight lines for the folds of the umanori, resulting in a rigid, agitated rendering of the trousers, expressive of a confrontational moment in the drama, as Daizen threatens with a raised dagger. The diagonals created by his arms, swords, and left leg produce a thrusting forward of the forms, with the dagger as the apex. This is one of Shigeharu's best full-length actor portraits.

References: IKBYS-II, no. 113