Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

1786-1865

Actors at the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido: Shimizutani, Actor Nakamura Utaemon IV as Seigen
([Yakusha mitate] Tokaido gojusan tsugi no uchi: Shimizuya, Seigen)

signed Toyokuni ga with publisher's seal Sei (Shimizuya Naojiro), censor's seals Fuku and Muramatsu, and date seal Ne-ju (10th lunar month, year of the rat [1852])

oban tate-e 13 3/4 by 9 1/4 in., 35 by 23.6 cm

The story of the priest Seigen of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto has several iterations, but the core of the story revolves around an ill-fated affair and subsequent depravity of a disgraced priest. In one version Seigen makes a suicide pact with his lover, a young page named Shiragiku, who follows through with their vow while Seigen fails to do so. Seventeen years later, Seigen falls madly in love with the Princess Sakura who embodies the reincarnated soul of Shiragiku. After several plot twists, Seigen is wrongfully accused of seducing Sakura and is dismissed from the temple, losing his status, and while wandering in dishonor, Princess Sakura mistakenly stabs him to death. Other versions reverse the roles: it is Princess Sakura who is the dead lover reborn as Shiragiku. Regardless, Seigen's misguided lust always gets the better of him, bringing about his own death following that of his lovers. Although the actor Nakamura Utaemon IV (1796-1852) had recently passed away eight months before this print was published, he had portrayed Seigen in the play World of Lightning at Yoshida Hamlet (Sekai wa Yoshida sato no inazuma) in the 9th lunar month of 1839.

The name of Seigen's Temple, Kiyomizu, can also be read Shimizu, providing Kunisada with a connection between the actor's role and the intermediate location of Shimizutani on the Tokaido, between station 43, Yokkaichi, and station 44, Ishiyakuchi.

References:
Andreas Marks, Kunisada's Tokaido: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2013 p. 152, no. T63-44C
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, acquisition nos. 11.43213, 59.1147.123
Waseda University Theater Museum, acquisition nos. 006-4827, 500-2744

(inv. no. C-3340)

price: $650

kikumon

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