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Archive: Gajuken Shunchô (画壽軒春朝)

Onoe Tamizô II as Kaminari (god of thunder) and Tobane in Hatsuharu no kotobuki iwau kokonobake, Chikugo Theater, Osaka
Shunchô ga
No Artist Seals
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七) and Kichi
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e
37.3 x 25.6 cm
Very good color and good condition (unbacked; light vertical centerfold; two small thin spots along left edge; one pin-sized wormhole. Note that what looks like soil is oxidized mica)
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Hatsuharu no kotobuki iwau kokonobake (Nine changes for long-life in early spring: 初春寿九化) brought together a set of nine pieces for a single actor to showcase his skills in acting, recitation, and dance. It is an example of so-called hatsuharu kyôgen ("early spring plays" or "New Year's plays": 初春狂言).

Kaminari (かみなり), also Raiden (雷電) or Raijin (雷神), the thunder god, was typically depicted with a red body, a demon's face, and clawed feet. Among his possessions were thunder-making drums, which in many depictions of this god he seems always to be misplacing and attempting to relocate. A drum wheel was worn by the actor, who attached it to a harness around the waist. The wheel would arc above his head (forming a sort of nimbus), and the actor would play it with drumsticks held in both hands.


This unusual design depicts Tamizô as Kaminari (かみなり) kneeling within his thunder clouds, and as Tobane (とばへ) looking up at Kaminari. Other roles in the series on four other sheets include compositions by Shunchô (Shakkyô), Shunsei (Tokimune and his daughter; Genta and a fisherman) and Shunshi (Seishôjo and a watchman in Edo). Kaminari's drums are decorated with magatama ("bent jewel": 勾玉) emblems. In his left hand he holds a kiseru (smoking pipe: 烟管) and a bag inscribed ho (no) yo jin (Be careful with fire). The odawara (collapsible paper lantern: 小田原) serves as a cartouche bearing the actor's roles and name, along with a title, Kokonobake no uchi (Series of nine changes: 九之化之内).

Very little is known of this artist who signed as Shunchô (春朝). He was one of several printmakers using the artist name "Shunchô," each with different kanji for the "chô" (see, for example, HSO02, signed Shunchô 春頂 for the earlier name of Hokushô). The present artist was a pupil of Gatôken Shunshi and worked circa in the late 1820s-early 1830s.

References: KNZ, no. 466; NKE, p. 156