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Yoshitoshi
Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892
Eastern Flowers of Rough Stories from the Floating World: Ito Enryu; Nikki Danjo Masanori
(Azuma no nishiki ukiyo kodan: Ito Enryu; Nikki Danjo Masanori)

signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu, with artist's seal Kiri, publisher's seal Hanmoto, Masudaya, Shiba Shinmeimae (Masudaya Ginjiro), and combined censor and date seal Tatsu-ni, aratame (year of the dragon [1868], 2nd lunar month, examined)
oban tate-e 14 1/4 by 9 1/2 in., 36.2 by 24 cm
This character is identified as Nikki Danjo Masanori from a story retold by Ito Enryu (possibly Ito Enryu II, 1801-1855), the deranged villain originally conceived of by the kabuki playwright Nagawa Kamesuke in the play The Precious Incense and Autumn Flowers of Sendai (Meiboku Sendai hagi) which was first staged in 1777, but inspired by a real-life story of treachery and tragedy in the Date clan of Sendai that had taken place over 100 years earlier in 1660.
In the play, Nikki Danjo is the notorious, evil magician capable of transforming himself into a rat who leads a failed coup attempt against the Date household. After the coup has been thwarted, Danjo is found guilty of treason by the counsellor Katsumoto and condemned to death. In this scene, the climactic finale of the play, Danjo attempts to fight his way out of facing punishment, stabbing a loyal Date retainer before being wrestled to the ground and brought to justice.
The series Eastern Flowers of Rough Stories from the Floating World (Azuma no hana ukiyo kodan) illustrates episodes of stories as paraphrased in the descriptive cartouches by the writer Kanagaki Robun (1829-1894). Robun was the son of a fishmonger who partnered with the artist Kawanabe Kyosai (1831-1889) to set up shop as a literary subcontractor. He wrote comic fiction and supplied texts for ukiyo-e, and became a frequent contributor to woodblock prints. Published jointly by seven different publishers, the series title includes a pun of the word 'kodan' which phonetically means 'story-telling,' but the first of the two characters is here substituted by one that means 'rough draft' or 'manuscript,' thus emphasizing Robun's abbreviation of the tales. The subjects depicted are from folklore, kabuki theater, and novels, and the names of the storytellers follow the series title in the red oblong cartouche in the shape of a page-turner. Robun's texts are inscribed on the pages of a folded book.
Published:
Highlights of Japanese Printmaking: Part Five - Yoshitoshi, Scholten Japanese Art, New York, 2017, cat. no. 21

References:
Peter Duus, 'Japan's First Manga Magazine,' in Impressions, no. 21, 1999, pp. 31-32 (re: Robun)
James R. Brandon & Samuel L. Leiter, Villainy and Vengeance, 2002, pp. 50-52
Arendie Herwig & Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 242-249
Amy Reigle Newland & Chris Uhlenbeck, Yoshitoshi: Masterpieces from the Ed Fries Collection, 2011, pp. 89-90
Yuriko Iwakiri, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (Taiyo 196), 2012, pp. 60, 286
price: $ 1,400