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Archive: Yoshiume (芳梅)

Ichikawa Ebizô V as Ôtomo no Kuronushi in Tsumoru koi yuki no seki no to
No artist seal
No publisher mark
Circa 1849-53 (possibly Takeda Theater, 10/1849)
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e
25.1 x 17.3 cm
Excellent color; good condition (embossing; shômenzuri ["front printing" of a pattern from uninked block]; backed; light crease along much of left edge; minor marks)
Price (USD/¥):
Inquiry: YSU03

Originally part of a larger play called Juni hitoe Komachi zakura, the plot weaves together legends involving the rokkasen (six immortal poets) into an imaginative dance. The action takes place at a barrier gate on Mt. Osaka. The barrier guard, Sekibei, is actually Ôtomo no Kuronushi, a villain plotting to overthrow the emperor. Late in the dance section, Kuronushi, in a drunken state, imagines that stars reflected in his drinking bowl indicate that he will become emperor if he can use burnt wood from a cherry tree to perform a special ritual. However, he is unable to chop down a nearby tree, prevented by the spirit of the tree, Sumizome (lit., "black dye"), who takes the form of a courtesan-mistress of Sekibei's enemy, Yasusuda. Their confrontational dance is a highlight of the dance drama, with the tokiwazu musical accompaniment considered among the best in kabuki. Here, Kuronushi appears in full courtly garb as a prince (kuge), wearing an eboshi (court hat) and a great wig of flowing hair as cherry blossom petals fall from the tree.