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Archive: Toyohide (豊秀)

Ichikawa Morinosuke (市川森之助) as Hayano Kanpei (早ノ勘平) in Gishi no kakizoe (A postscript of the loyal retainers, 義士の書添), Wakadayû Theater, Osaka
Kitagawa Toyohide ga (北川豊秀画)
No artist seal
Honsei 本清 (Honya Seishichi: 本屋清七)
(H x W)
Deluxe ôban nishiki-e
37.2 x 25.5 cm
Excellent color, unbacked; filled album binding holes along left edge
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: THD10


Very little is known about the artist Toyohide. His family name was Kitagawa (北川), and he also used the geimei (art names: 芸名) Ichiryûtei (一流𠅘) and Isshintei (一信亭). He was active from 1838 to 1843, a few years before and a year after the start of the Tenpô kaikaku (Tenpô Reforms: 天保改革) of 1842, edicts that virtually halted print production in Osaka for four-and-a-half years. Occasionally his signature appears within a toshidama-style cartouche ("New Year's jewel" or "New Year's gift" 年玉, a type of year seal used as the crest of the Utagawa school of artists), suggesting a connection with the Edo-based artist Utagawa Kunisada (歌川國貞 later Toyokuni III 豊國 1786-1865), although his use of "Toyo" (豊) in his name precedes Kunisada's official adoption of the Toyokuni name in 1844, which suggests to some scholars that Toyohide might have had a connection with Utagawa Toyokuni I (歌川豊國 1769-1825) more than a decade before Toyohide's first known prints.

Toyohide's documented designs, which number only around 17, are infrequently encountered, even more so with very good color, as here. He worked most often with the publisher Honya Seishichi 本屋清七 (Honsei, 本清), producing 10 works, and primarily with three different theaters (Kado, Naka, Onishi). All but one design depict full-length figures (all ôban or "large" format, 大判), while a single chûban (中判) ôkubi-e ("large head" or bust portrait, 大首絵) is known.


Gishi no kakizoe (A postscript of the loyal retainers, 義士の書添) is an adaptation of the most famous of all revenge dramas, the 1748 Kanadehon chûshingura (Copybook of the treasury of loyal retainers, 仮名手本忠臣蔵), originally a ten-hour puppet play that was quickly adapted by kabuki. The story of the betrothed lovers Hayano Kanpei (早ノ勘平) and Okaru (おかる) forms a subplot within the tale of forty-seven rônin who avenge their lord Enya Hangan’s forced suicide following a quarrel incited by the villain Kô no Moronao 高師直 (Acts III-IV). Okaru and Kanpei travel to her parent’s country home, a scene often performed as a road-travel dance (shosagoto michiyuki, 所佐事道行). Okaru’s father Yoichibei (与市兵衛) reluctantly sells her to a brothel for 100 ryô to raise funds for a monument to Hangan (actually a ruse to collect money secretly for arms and armor to attack Moronao in his mansion). This gesture would have also helped to redeem Kanpei’s honor, for the quarrel leading to Hangan’s seppuku ("incision of the abdomen" or ritual suicide, 切腹) occurred when Kanpei had briefly abandoned his lord at a critical moment to enjoy a covert dalliance with Okaru. In Act VI, Yoichibei is murdered and robbed of Okaru’s earnings on a rainy night by the highwayman Ono no Sadakurô (斧定九郎), a former low-ranking retainer of Hangan’s who deserted the avenging rônin. Kanpei, now a hunter, comes upon the scene and fires his rifle at a wild boar. The shot inadvertently kills Sadakurô, however, but it is so dark that Kanpei fails to recognize the dead villain when he picks up the money. Kanpei does recognize the body of Yoichibei, however, and believes he has slain his father-in-law. When his mother-in-law accuses him of the crime, he commits suicide to atone for his grievous action. As he lay dying, Kanpei learns the truth from two of the loyal samurai, and they add Kanpei’s name to the list of the rônin as a reward for proving his loyalty and for donating the money gained from Okaru’s indenture as a prostitute.

References: IKBYS-III, no. 210; NKE, p. 271 (Chûshingura synopsis)