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Archive: Ichiyôsai Yoshitaki (一養齋芳瀧)

Top Row: (1R) Nakamura Jakuemon (中村雀右衛門) as Miura Akusasaburô (三浦悪三郎); (2R) Onoe Tamizô II (尾上多見蔵) as Mino Shôkurô (美濃庄九郎); (3R) Nakamura Nakasuke II (中むら仲助) as landlord [teishu] Mankurô (亭主万九郎) and Onoe Shokaku (尾上松鶴) as servant [yakko] Sodehei (奴袖平); Bottom Row: (1R) Fujikawa Tomokichi III (藤川友吉) as the courtesan [keisei] Naniwazu (けいせい難波づ); (2R) Arashi Kichisaburô III (嵐吉三郎) as Akujirô Yoshizumi (悪二郎義澄); (3R) Jitsukawa Ensaburô I (実川延三郎) as Ise Shinkurô Nagauji (伊勢信九郎長氏) in Keisei ômonguchi (Courtesans at the great gate of the pleasure quarter: 契情廓大門), Naka no Shibai, Osaka; Print [Play] Title: Keisei ômonguchi (契情廓大門)
ôju ("by special request" 応需) Ichiyôtei Yoshitaki sha (一養亭芳滝写) in the large cartouche at lower left; other sheets simply Yoshitaki (芳滝)
No artist seal
No publisher seal
(H x W)
Chûban hexaptych nishiki-e
48.5 x 53.5 cm
Excellent deluxe edition rich in metallics, embossing and burnishing
Very good color, unbacked; UR: light incised marks; UL: light stain, two short incised marks, expertly restored upper left corner; LR: flattened creases; LC: album crease; LL: flattened album crease and other short creases
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: YST24


The text of Keisei ômonguchi (Courtesans at the great gate of the pleasure quarter: 契情廓大門 also written as けいせい廓大門) has apparently not survived, but it seems to be an adaptation of Ômonguchi yoroi kasane (written by Namiki Sôsuke in 12/1743, which premiered at the Ônishi Theater in Osaka). The drama features a complicated saga in which Shôkurô plots against Shinkurô, the murderer of his father, and wherein some of the characters take on disguises and false identities during the intrigues fueling the plot twists.


This composition of this made-to-order ("by special, request, ôju, 応需) is extraordinary, with its six sheets stacked in two rows. The sheet at the top right has a cartouche with the play title Keisei ômonguchi (契情廓大門). The crests (mon: 紋) decorating the highly unusual border are those belonging to the actors or their lineages, for example, the pair of crossed scrolls of the Nakamura actors.

Moreover, it is an unusual mitate-e (analog print: 見立絵) in which the actors and their roles have been jumbled up so that some of the pairings do not match the kabuki performance record. There is, indeed, a production of Keisei ômonguchi for 1/1862 in the Kabuki nenpyô (Chronicle of kabuki) — see KNP reference below — whose date would be consistent stylistically with Yoshitaki's early period. Yet only some actors/roles correspond with Yoshitaki's assignments. For example, in KNP, Arashi Kichisaburô III is listed as having performed four different roles, but none of them are Akujirô Yoshizumi (as assigned by Yoshitaki), and one of these four roles, Ise Shinkurô Nagauji, is shown in Yoshitaki's print as being played by Jitsukawa Ensaburô. Yet there is a match for Onoe Tamizô II, who is indeed identified in both the print and KNP with Mino Shôkurô. So far, scholars have assigned the 1/1862 production to Yoshitaki's design, but a full explanation of the contradictions remains elusive. Thus Yoshitaki's hexaptych has been catalogued as mitate-e, meaning an imaginary performance of the particular cast/roles.

A stacked (two-row) hexaptych was a rare compositional format both in Edo and Kamigata printmaking. For that reason alone, collectors eagerly seek out such works. Add to that rarity the eye-catching quality of a deluxe edition and the fairly early date for a Yoshitaki design, and you have a yakusha-e of notable distinction.

For other designs by Yoshitaki for this same performance, see YST18 and YST23.

References: IKBYS-V, no. 136; KNP-7, p. 96; IKB-I, p. 109, no. 2-549