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Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865
Actors Sawamura Tossho I, Bando Mitsugoro, and Nakamura Shikan II in the Kurumabiki Scene
each sheet signed, Kochoro Kunisada ga, with publisher's seal of Nishimuraya Yohachi (Eijudo), and censor's seal kiwame (approved), ca. 1833-35
chuban tate-e triptych 9 1/2 by 21 5/8 in., 24.2 by 54.8 cm
This print illustrates the Kuruma-biki (Carriage-Pulling) scene from the play, Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami (Sugawara's Secrets of Calligraphy), in which three brothers, triplets, engage in a confrontation with each other. From left to right, Sawamura Tossho I (Suketakaya Takasuke III, 1802-1853) as Sakuramaru, Bando Mitsugoro IV (Morita Kan'ya XI, 1802-1863) as Umeomaru, and Nakamura Shikan II (Nakamura Utaemon IV) as Matsumaru. The two brothers on the left, Sakuramaru and Umeomaru, are against Matsumaru on the right, who has taken up service with the enemy of their honorable godfather. The actors and their roles are identified in the red cartouches, but the roles are also indicated by the patterns on their clothing which reference their names: cherry (sakura) for Sakuramaru, plum (ume) for Umeomaru, and pine (matsu) for Matsumaru.
Compare with an 1866 triptych of the same subject by Kunisada's student Kunichika.
Arendie & Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 157-165 (on play)