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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Paul Binnie, Benkei in Kanjincho

Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967

The Famous 18 Plays: Benkei in Kanjincho
(Kabuki ju-hachiban: Kanjincho Benkei)

kappazuri (stencil print) on black washi paper with highlights in gold and brass pigment; signed in the composition, Binnie, signed and numbered at bottom margin in red crayon, Paul Binnie 15/80, followed by artist's seal bin-ni, and date seal Heisei roku nen (Heisei 6 [1994]), ca. September - October 1994

dai oban tate-e 18 1/4 by 12 3/8 in., 46.2 by 31.3 cm

This composition is the sixth in the Kabuki ju-hachiban (The Famous 18 Plays) series and depicts the role of Benkei from the classic play Kanjincho (The donors list). First staged in 1840, it remains the most popular play in the kabuki repertoire even today; the Benkei character is considered one of the most challenging and important aragoto (lit. 'rough stuff') roles in kabuki.

In the story, Benkei, the former priest-warrior and loyal retainer of Yoshitsune (disguised as a porter), encounters Togashi, a samurai at a blockade erected for the purpose of capturing Yoshitsune, and must convince him that he and his traveling companions are priests en route to collect donated funds for a temple. Togashi, impressed by Benkei's poise, but skeptical of his story, requests to see the kanjincho, the list of contributors. Benkei produces a scroll and begins to read names, but Togashi manages to see that the scroll is blank. This print depicts the 'title' moment in the play, with Benkei holding the blank scroll as he reads the list of names.

Paul Binnie: A Dialogue with the Past - The First 100 Japanese Prints, 2007, p. 64, no. 23