Utagawa Kuniyoshi


Sawamura Tossho as the geisha Ohatsu; Nakamura Utaemon IV as Kagamiya Onoe(mon?); Ichikawa Ebizo V as Iwafuji no Hatasuke

signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga, with censor's seal kiwame and publisher's seal Kin, Soyo (Soshuya Yoehei), ca. 1840

oban tate-e triptych 14 3/4 by 30 in., 37.6 by 76.1 cm

The onnagata Sawamura Tossho (Suketakaya Takasuke III, 1802-1853) in the role of geisha Ohatsu in the right sheet is bundled up in a leisure boat drifting towards another boat with Nakamura Utaemon IV (Tamasuke, 1796-1852) seated near a brazier and Ichikawa Ebizo V (Danjuro VII, 1791-1859) standing and holding the tiller. The alignment of each actor's use of their respective stage names suggest that this print was produced after 1836 and before 1844. A red tobi (hawk) kite falling from the sky and the layers of protective clothing worn by the actors suggests that the scene takes place during the cold season. Their roles are associated with the drama, Kagamiyama (Mirror Mountain), which centers on a vendetta between rival factions among the ladies-in-waiting in a samurai residence, although in the traditional version Ohatsu is not a geisha but a household servant, and Iwafuji is a female rival to Ohatsu's mistress, Onoe. Known as Onna-Chushingura (Female Chushingura) due to the emphasis on the loyalty and fidelity Ohatsu, Kagamiyama-themed plays were popular with women and typically staged in March in order to coincide with the month during which women serving in samurai mansions were usually permitted to go home to spend time with their families and would have been at liberty to attend the theater.

The Kuniyoshi Project (kuniyoshiproject.com), Actor triptychs 1815-1846, Part III

(inv. no. 10-5384)

price: $2,000


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site last updated
March 21, 2023

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475