Iwanaga Saemon is a villain in the play Dan no ura kabuto gunki ("The helmet chronicle of Dan no ura"). This jidaimono (history drama) was written for the puppet theater in 1732, when it was performed at the Takemota no shibai. The first kabuki performance occurred in 1733 in Osaka at the Kado no shibai. The plot was an adaptation of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's influential Shusse Kagekiyo ("Kagekiyo's triumph") of 1685. Iwanaga was an ally of Hatakeyama no Shigetada (a Minamoto or Genji warrior) , who is tracking down the celebrated warlord Akushichibyoe Kagekiyo (the historical Taira Kagekiyo, taken prisoner at the Battle of Dan no ura in 1185), a fugitive of the defeated Taria (Heike) clan. Shigetada decides to force Kagekiyo's mistress, the courtesan Akoya, to reveal the location of her lover. After she denies any knowledge of Kagekiyo's whereabouts, Iwanaga threatens to use a water torture, but Shigetada cunningly orders her to play the koto, samisen, and kokyû. Akoya realizes that if she appears agitated during her performance, Shigetada and Iwanaga will know that she is lying. She performs with such composure that the Genji warriors believe her conscience must be untroubled and her denials genuine. The scene is sometimes referred to as Akoya no kotozeme ("Akoya tortured by koto").
Ishikawa Akuemon is a villain in the play Ashiya Dôman Ôuchi kagami ("An imperial mirror of Ashiya Dôman"). It was written by Takeda Izumo II for the Osaka puppet theater in 1734 (kabuki introduced its first staging in Kyoto the following year). Takeda’s dramatization was related to the fictional genre known as irui konin banashi ("stories of marriage between humans and animals"), reflecting the wide-spread belief in kitsune-tsuki ("fox possession"). Akuemon lusts after his cousin, Kuzunoha-hime, a princess and sister of Sakaki no Mae, the former lover of the nobleman Abe no Yasuna. Sakaki no Mae had taken her life after the theft of her father's treatise on astronomy secrets. Kuzunoha closely resembles her sister, so much so that when Abe no Yasuna encounters her in Shinoda, he immediately falls in love with her. During a hunt for a white fox in Shinoda Forest, Akuemon is stopped from killing a fox when Abe no Yasuna intervenes, though suffering a beating at the hands of Akuemon and his servants. The grateful fox takes the form of Kuzunoha, stops Abe no Yasuna from suicide, and marries him, soon afterwards bearing a child named Dôji ( later the astrologer Abe no Seimei). After five years pass, the real Kuzunoha returns from hiding away with her parents in a remote village. The fox-Kuzunoha has no choice but to take her real animal form and return to Shinoda Forest. With much sorrow, she abandons her husband and son after writing them a now-famous farewell poem: Koishiku ba / tazunekite miyo / izumi naru / Shinoda no mori no / urami Kuzunoha ("If you long to love me, / Search for me in / Shinoda Forest / Izumi Province — Regretful Kuzunoha").
Both drawings were made by an accomplished artist, possibly by a follower of Yoshitaki. The drawing on the right is related to a published print by Yoshitaki (see image at immediate right) portraying Onoe Tamizô II (尾上多見蔵) as Iwanaga Saemon (岩永左衛門) in 1/1857 for the play Dan no ura kabuto gunki (The helmet chronicle [battle] of Danoura: 檀浦兜軍記) at the Kado no Shibai, Osaka. The style of facial likeness (nigao) owes much to Hirosada, as the design is from Yoshitaki's early period.
In kabuki, the stylized makeup that is the foundation for boldly emotional and symbolic patterning of the face, particularly in aragoto ("wild business") roles, is called kumadori ("taking the shadows"). It consists of lines (sujiguma or "border stripes") painted in harmony with the bone structure of the face. There are a variety of kumadori, each appropriate to the particular role and the temperament of the character being played. In the present drawing on the right, Iwanaga's kumadori was of a type used for villainous roles, and it is drawn here to great effect.
The sheet on the left includes the hiragana character "i" in the top right margin, suggesting that this drawing may have been intended for an iroha series, that is, one in which some connection is made between each design and a sound from the Japanese syllabary.
The two drawings do not form a pair; nevertheless, we are offering them together as a single item, as they appear to come from the same hand. Osaka drawings, whether by the original artist or by followers copying published prints, have survived in very small numbers and are rarely available for acquisition.
References: IKBYS-V, no. 4; NKE, pp. 26 and 73