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Archive: Shunkyô (春郷)

Arashi Kichisaburô II as Funakoshi Jûemon in Yaegasumi Naniwa no homaogi, Kado Theater, Osaka
Shunkyô ga
Artist seal: Shunkyô
Shiochô (Shioya Chôbei)
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e
37.5 x 25.3 cm
Very good
Very good color and condition (unbacked; small streak between figure and seal where the pigment was not applied during printing; a few tiny and very minor paper flaws; short, thin ink mark upper right hand corner; upper left edge slightly irregular; otherwise excellent condition for this period, with the colorants used for the purple well preserved)
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Yaegasumi Naniwa no homaogi ("Eightfold reeds along the seashore: Mist at Osaka") premiered as a puppet play (jôruri or bunraku) in 3/1749 at the Toyotake no shibai. It was based on a scandalous shinjû (literally "inside the heart," meaning a double suicide) that same year, a real-life event involving a prostitute named Osono and her lover, the daiku (carpenter) Rokusaburô. Yaegasumi inspired later productions, including plays introduced well into the nineteenth century, such as Sanesô nishiki bunshô featuring a nearly all-dance interpretation in Tokiwazu style. Tokiwazu had its own connection with shinjû, as it was introduced in 1739 as an alternative to a dance style called bungo bushi that was banned after authorities had judged it to be injurious to public morals for its close association with shinjû-mono (domestic dramas portraying double suicides).

Arashi Kichisaburô II (Rikan I; 1769-1821) — the founder of the Arashi line of actors — was a leading tachiyaku ("standing actor," an interpreter of male roles) from 1805 until his death. Blessed with a fine voice, a graceful manner, and good looks, he was known as Dai-Rikan ("The Great Rikan"), a stage idol celebrated for individualistic acting style, versatility, and wide range of roles, although he did not perform as an onnagata ("woman's manner," a male actor playing women's roles) or jitsu aku ("out and out villain"), preferring instead to specialize in heroic characters. His influence on Kamigata acting was significant, introducing new roles in plays premiering in Osaka (he never performed in Edo). Rikan's talents extented to the writing of poetry (haiku and kyôka), with his verses appearing in nearly twenty anthologies. As the principal rival to Nakamura Utaemon III, he became embroiled in a cause célèbre that captivated the kabuki world during the 1810s.


The imposing figure of the superstar Kichisaburô II, set against a striking salmon-pink textured background — printed by tapping with a cloth, called tatakizuri — make this a notable early portrait.

The survival rate of prints from the early period of Osaka printmaking is rather dismal. Thus, impressions such as this one, with the colors so well preserved and overall condition excellent, are rarely available for acquisition.


Okada Isajiro (岡田伊三次郎), 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).

References: WAS-IV, no. 68; KNP-5, p. 515-516; IKB-I, no. 1-368; NKE, p. 553