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The geisha Miyokichi (芸妓美代吉) from the series Thirty-six Good and Evil Beauties (Zen-aku sanjūroku bijin - 善悪三拾六美人)

Identifier: 1870 Kunichika miyokichi

"This work illustrates a scene from a true story involving the streetwise Edo geisha Miyokichi and the innocent Chijimiya Shinsuke, a silk merchant who has come to the capital from Echigo province. The tale ends tragically when Shinsuke, spurned by the heartless Miyokichi, murders her. The Kabuki adaptation of the story was written by the blaywright Kawatake Mokuami (1816-93) in his piece Merrymaking on the eve of the Hachiman festival (Hachiman matsuri yomiya no nigiwai of 1860.

Kunichika portrays Miyokichi in a sinking pleasure boat on the Sumida river. A price of two sen five rin (1000 m = 1 ¥) appears in the left margin."

Quoted from: Time Present and Time Past: Images of a Forgotten Master: Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) by Amy Reigle Newland, #14, p. 57. This is accompanied by a full-color half-page illustration.


Newland devoted a whole paragraph on page 18 to the significance of this series, i.e., Zen-aku sanjūroku bijin, at the beginning of her book on Kunichika.

"Thirty-six good and evil beauties (Zen-aku sanjūroku bijin)... of 1876 is arguably one of Kunichika's most accomplished forays into bijinga. The quality of printing is superb. His treatment of the subject is fluid, the women portrayed energetic, wild, their poses at times reminiscent of those encountered in the work of earlier artists like Kuniyoshi and Kunisada, and in his own actor prints... Each sheet in Thirty-six good and evil beauties illustrates a famous woman from distant or more recent history with an explanatory cartouche above by a contemporary writer."


The text reads: 浮名辰己の仲町に招けバなびく尾花屋より口をかけたる名うての羽織名も新藁の美代吉と穂積新三が二世かけて其中裏の約束を知らぬ本郷壱丁目の縮裂や乃新介が挑を程よく相の手の其三味線の長箱に入れて忘れし文の名宛穂積様へ美代吉よりと見るより新介無念に思ひ木挽町の戯場へ連出し戻りの船ハ両人が命も築地の浪際にて美代吉を殺害なし其身も自殺なしたるハ文政三年三月の十四日の月代もやゝかたぶきし頃なりとそ 伊東花楽述

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