Shunkōsai Hokushū (春好斎北洲) (artist ca 1808 – 1832)

From right to left: Nakamura Sankō I (中村三光) as the fox Kojorō (小女郎狐); Kataoka Nizaemon VII (片岡仁左衛門) as Sengoku Gonpei (仙石権平); Ichikawa Ebijūrō I (市川鰕十郎) as Takechi Samanosuke (武智左馬之助); Arashi Koroku IV (あらし小六) as Izumo no Okuni (いつものおくに); and Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Nagoya Sanza (名古屋山三)

Print


11/1821
52.5 in x 15.5 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
春好斎北洲画
Publisher: Toshikuraya Shinbei
(Marks 539 - seal 25-553)
Hankyu Culture Foundation - far right panel
Hankyu Culture Foundation - 2nd from right
Hankyu Culture Foundation - center panel
Hankyu Culture Foundation - 2nd from left
Hankyu Culture Foundation - far left panel
Royal Museums of Art and History, Belgium (via Cultural Japan) - left-hand panel only
British Museum
Koninklijke Musea voor Kunst en Geschiedenis, Brussel - left panel only

This play Long Life, Mt. Horai (Kotobuki Hōraisan) was staged in 11/1821.

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Background

The play Kotobuki Horaisan ("Long life, Mt. Horai") refers to a mythical mountain (Chinese: Penglai-shan) believed to exist in eastern China, inhabited by Taoist Immortals (sennin or rishi) who sought transcendence and engaged in dietary, sexual, and alchemy regimens in the pursuit of immortality.

Although the plot of this play is unknown to us, the names of the characters suggest a mitate (analogue) given at the start of the new theatrical season featuring the theme of immortality. For example, the "immortal" characters include Izumo no Okuni, widely considered to be the founder of kabuki. She was an daughter of a priestess (miko) at a temple in Izumo whose purported lover was Nagoya Sanzaburō, a samurai actually named Nagoe Sanzaburō (later Kuemon) whose mother was a niece of the primary military unifier of Japan, Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582). Sanzaburō, a samurai who died in 1603, was celebrated as a lance thrower, even becoming the subject of a popular song. He later evolved in the popular imagination as perhaps the most famous of all kabuki mono ("tilted persons"), a type of dashing anti-Tokugawa malcontent (many were rōnin or "wave men," masterless or unemployed samurai). Okuni's connection with Sanzaburō was likely a romantic fiction; on the prototypical kabuki stage, Okuni (a kabuki mono in her own right) was said to have danced with the ghost of Sanzaburō.

Design

This pentaptych is one of the most dramatic in the Hokushû oeuvre. Fox fires (kitsunebi) burn across all the sheets, emanating from Kojorō kitsune at the far right, who appears at the mouth of a cloud whose source is at the top of the middle sheet. She holds a large folding fan (ōgi) with a long silk tassle, and her hair is decorated with a silver flowering cherry (sakura) ornament. Note, too, the phoenix (hoō) headdress worn by Okuni (fourth sheet), as if bestowing upon her a courtly ranking, and Sanzaburō's Korean-style hat capped by a mythical lion (shishi).

Each sheet is inscribed gomai tsuzuki ("five-sheet series').

The above text was written by John Fiorillo at OsakaPrints.com

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This group commemorates a performance at the Naka Theater in Osaka.

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Illustrated in:

1) Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata Yakusha-e Shusei, (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints) volume 1, Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka, 1997, no. 108.

2) Schätze der Kamigata: Japanische Farbholzschnitte aus Osaka 1780-1880, MNHA (Musée national d'histoire et d'art Luxembourg), pp. 34-35, #44. The entry in this catalogue says: "Die Szene völler Irrlichter zeigt die Beschwörung eines zauberkräftigen tausendjährigen Fuchses, der sich in eine Prinzessen verwandelt hat."
Kyōto-Osaka prints (kamigata-e - 上方絵) (genre)
Toshikuraya Shinbei (利倉屋新兵衛) (publisher)
Kataoka Nizaemon VIII (八代目片岡仁左衛門: 1/1857 to 2/1863) (actor)
Ichikawa Ebijūrō I (初代市川鰕十郎 9/1815 to 7/1827) (actor)
Arashi Koroku IV 四代目嵐小六 (actor)
Nakamura Utaemon III 三代目中村歌右衛門 (actor)
actor prints (yakusha-e - 役者絵) (genre)
mitate-e (見立て絵) (genre)
Nakamura Sankō I (初代中村三光: 11/1812 to 10/1813) (actor)
Yūrei-zu (幽霊図 - ghosts demons monsters and spirits) (genre)