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Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, 1839-1892
Actors Nakamura Shikan IV as Saeda Daigakunosuke and Kawarazaki Gonjuro as Takahashi Gappo
(Nakamura Shikan, Saeda Daigakunosuke, Kawarazaki Gonjuro, Takahashi Gappo)
signed Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi hitsu, with publisher's seal Shobundo (Gifuya Seishichi of Shobundo), and combined censor and date seal Inu-go, aratame (year of the dog , 5th month, examined)
oban tate-e diptych 14 by 19 1/2 in., 35.5 by 49.4 cm
This rare composition depicts the actor Nakamura Shikan IV (1831-1899) in the role of Saeda Daigakunosuke and the Kawarazaki Gonjuro (Ichikawa Danjuro IX, 1838-1903) in the role of Takahashi Yajuro (using the name Gappo which he adopted when he took the tonsure and became a monk) from In Front of Myokaku Temple (Myokakuji omote no ba) Act VI of the play An Illustrated Picture Book of the Crossroads of Gappo (Ehon Gappo ga tsuji). They are fighting in front of a massive statue of Emma-O, the Buddhist judge of the underworld. Daigakunosuke is a member of the Taga clan and a descendant of the legendary statesman and calligrapher Sugawara Michizane (845-903) who through deception and bloodshed attempts to claim authority over his family and their vassals. Yajuro is a Taga retainer whose brother and brother-in-law are both killed by the conniving Daigakunosuke. As much as he would like to see Daigakunosuke's undoing, Yajuro cannot prove his enemy's machinations, and due to Daigakunosuke's rising strength, is forced to retire to the temple devoted to Emma-O at the crossroads Gappo-ga-tsuji and live out his days as a monk. However, his retirement is short-lived as Daigakunosuke himself soon appears at the temple. With the statue of the Buddhist deity looming behind them, Yajuro fights and defeats the man who killed his family, thus concluding his vendetta.