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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Print: Ōmori Hikoshichi (大森彦七) carries a demon disguised as a beautiful woman

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Dates: circa 1843 - 1846,created
Dimensions: 9.75 in,14.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Kōchō(rō) Kunisada ga (香蝶国貞画)
Publisher: Moritaya Hanzō (Marks 352 seal 23-026)
Censor's seal: kiwame in the yellow cartouche
Censor's seal: Hama (1843-46) in the lower left of the print

Related links: Hagi Uragami Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston - earlier version from the 1820s, but with the same publisher;

Physical description:

“Omori Hikoshichi (lived about 1340), a vassal of Shogun Ashikaga Takaugi (1305-58), offered to assist a beautiful maiden on her way to a celebration of his victory of Emperor Go Daigo (reigned 1319-38). As he gallantly carried her across a stream, Omori glanced at her reflection in the water and saw that she had turned into a witch, whereupon he slew her with his sword.”

Quoted from: Netsuke: Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art by Barbra Teri Okada, 1982, p. 32.

It should be noted that there are numerous, divergent variations of this tale and that the woman did not necessarily turn into a 'witch' but already was one revealed only through her reflection.

In another variation Ōmori Hikoshichi offers his assistance "...but once in the water [he] feels her becoming heavier and heavier with each step. When he turns to look at her he realises that she has changed into a demon that now tries to stab him. He overpowers her and she then confesses that she wished to exact revenge for the death of her father Kusunoki Masashige, who had recently committed suicide after being defeated in a battle with the Ashikaga." (Text by Henk J. Herwig)

The uroko gata or triangular blue and white snake-scale pattern of the demon's billowing garment might be a visual give-away as to her true nature.

There is a Hama censor seal inscribed in the lower left gray background which indicates this is a re-issue of the original circa 1832 edition published by Moritaya Hanzō. Since Moritaya ceased business around 1835, we are uncertain who published this example (from the original blocks). Perhaps Ebisuya (Ebisuya Shōchichi - Marks 039) as the vendor cited?

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There is another copy of this print in the Hagi Urakami Museum.

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Illustrated in

1) Ukiyo-e dai musha-e ten - 浮世絵大武者絵展 - (The Samurai World in Ukiyo-e), edited by Yuriko Iwakiri, Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts, 2003, #126, p. 51. [This example is from the Hagi Uragami Museum.]

2) in a full-page, color reproduction in Japanese Warrior Prints: 1646-1905, pl. 122, p. 231.

3) in a large color reproduction in Kunisada: Imaging Drama and Beauty by Robert Schaap, p. 151.

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In the title cartouche the name reads as 大森彦七盛長 or Ōmori Hikoshichi Morinaga. (JSV)