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Archive: Gatôken Shunshi (画登軒春芝)

Onoe Tamizô II as kôkuya [perfume vender] Yahei in Fumizuki urami no kiriko, Chikugo Theater, Osaka
Gatôken Shunshi ga
Artist Seal: Ashi (?)
Honsei (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Oban nishiki-e
37.7 x 26.0 cm
Excellent color; very good condition (unbacked; filled album binding holes along right edge; two tiny water stains near bottom edge
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This drama was based on two real-life incidents. The first occurred in the seventh month of 1702 in Unagidani, Osaka when Hachirôbei murdered Otsuma. It was quickly adapted for kabuki and staged in Osaka's three big theaters. The theme was revived in 1731 with Fumizuki urami no kiriko, produced by the actor Iwai Hanshirô III at the Naka no Shibai. The second incident, the murder of the courtesan Wakano of Saka-chô in Osaka, took place in 1764, which led to a new production with the same title, Fumizuki urami no kiriko, in 1764, again at the Naka no Shibai. Shortly thereafter, bunraku (puppet theater) developed an adaptation (Tsuma gasane naniwa no Hachimonji, written by Yatami [Hachimin] Heishichi and staged in 1769 at the Takemoto-za). There was a well-known version for the puppets titled Sakuratsuba urami no samezaya (unknown author, Toyotake-za, 1774). These dramatizations, plus other various adaptations, fall into the theatrical subgenre called Otsuma Hachirôbei mono (plays about Ostuma and Hachirôbei).

The domestic tragedy (sewamono) involves Hachirôbei, a former samurai and now a dealer in second-hand goods in Unagidani, who is searching for a stolen heirloom sword belonging to his master. He is also in desperate need of money to assist his master's daughter. Hachirôbei's wife, the former courtesan Otsuma, along with her mother, conspire to raise 50 ryô by having Otsuma give in to the amourous advances of the wealthy perfume vender (香具屋) Yahei. The arrangement includes, much to Otsuma's dismay, a pretense that she no longer loves Hachirôbei. When he finds Otsuma and her mother, he kills them both, although Yahei escapes. Their child, Ohan, finally reveals all, and gives Hachirôbei the money along with a letter written by Otsuma that identifies Yahei as the thief who stole the sword.


Gatôken Shunshi (画登軒春芝) was a student of Shunkôsai Hokushû and the apparent leader of a subgroup of followers that included at least two other artists signing with the name "Shunshi" — Gakôken Shunshi (画好軒春枝 act. c. 1824-29) and Shunshi (春始 act. c. 1830s), who used different ideograms for "shi."

Gatôken Shunshi specialized in portraits of Onoe Tamizô II (1799-1886), producing quite a number of designs featuring the actor. Tamizô was the son of a theater hairdresser, skilled at dance, versatile, and something of a ham on stage. He enjoyed a long career and had a devoted following in the chû-shibai (middle theaters). When the young Tamizô returned to Osaka in 1823 after a three-year absence under the tutelage of Onoe Kikugorô III in Edo, a number of artists working in nearly identical styles in the circle of Gatôken (Toryûken) Shunshi began featuring Tamizô in their prints. These artists portrayed Tamizo as a virile young actor, as in the present design. By the 1830s, Tamizô was also performing in the more prestigious ô-shibai (big theaters); however, some of the more discerning fans thought the flamboyant Tamizô relied too often on showmanship rather than on talent. Being short, overweight, and reputedly illiterate mitigated as well against Tamizô's becoming a matinee idol in the ô-shibai.


References: KNZ, no. 461; NKE, p. 546