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Archive: Yoshikuni (芳國)

Nakamura Utaemon III and an oni (devil) at Setsubun
Okonomi ni tsuki Yoshikuni ga
No artist seal
Publisher Seals: Wataya Kihei (flower seal and Wataki small oval seal) and Ariwaradô Chûbei; Printer Seal: suri Zakoba
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.0 x 26.5 cm
Excellent color, unbacked; album crease and one small spot of discoloration on left edge, two very small repaired wormholes (in corners), several paper flaws (indents)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: YSK22


Setsubun (lit., "seasonal division": 節分) refers to a bean-throwing festival or ceremony, a traditional ritual performed at the lunar New Year in which soya beans are scattered to drive away evil. Setsubun was derived from the annual practice of driving out devils from temples on the last day of the year. The beans were roasted and stored until use. During the throwing of the beans inside the house and around its immediate perimeter, one would cry out, Oni wa sôtô, fuki wa uchi ("Devils out, good luck enter!").


The prefix to Yoshikuni's signature reads Okonomi ni tsuki (By special request: 御好に付), an inscription found on a few ukiyo-e prints indicating a special commission or project for which the artist produced the design.

In Yoshikuni's print, the oni (devil or demon: 鬼) has turned the setsubun ritual on its head by mischieviously tossing beans at Utaemon III. The inscription on the bag reads Hi no yôjin (Careful of fire: 火の用心).

The poem can be translated as Oyadama haru to tsurenaru toshikoshi wa uchikomemame no irino tsuyosa yo (New year spring is here, a hard thrower of beans!) and is signed by Tsurushiba Komanari (鶴芝駒成). The term oyadama can mean "father" and may possibly refer to Utaemon III as the superstar (metaphorically, "hard thrower") of kabuki acting in Osaka.

References: IBKYS-I: no. 310