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Hokuei

Description:
(R) Arashi Rikan II (嵐璃寛) as Miyomoto Tomojirô (宮本友治郎) = Miyamoto Musashi (宮本無三四); and (L) Arashi Tokusaburô III (嵐徳三郎) as keisei (courtesan) Musashino (傾城むさしの) in Katakiuchi nitô eiyûki (復讐二島英勇記), Onishi Theater, Osaka
Signature:
Shunkôsai Hokuei ga
Seals:
Artist Seal: Fumoto no yuki ("snow in the foothills"); Block Cutter Seal: surimono hori Kasuke ("surimono cut by Kasuke")
Publisher:
No publisher seal (first state before the later edition with the Iden seal)
Date:
1/1832
Format:
(H x W)
Ôban diptych nishiki-e
38.1 x 52.7 cm
Impression:
Excellent
Condition:
Very good color and overall condition, unbacked; several repaired wormholes and thinned areas (all away from the design) on each sheet, flattened creases on L sheet, pigment smudge near hilt of Rikan's top sword
Price (USD/¥):
$515 / ¥ ... contact us

Order/Inquiry: HKE73

Comments:
Background

The play Katakiuchi nitô no eiyûki (A tale of revenge and great courage on two islands: 復讐二島英勇記) was based on the historical Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584-1645; 宮本 武蔵), whose name meant "Storehouse of military knowledge." Also an author, Musashi wrote Gorin no sho (The Book of Five Rings: 五輪書), a treatise on military tactics, strategy, and philosophy. He was a legendary swordsman and the son of the celebrated fencing master Yoshioka Tarozaemon, a retainer of the Ashikaga shôgun Yoshiteru. Musashi was a bold and reputedly reckless adventurer, although he survived armed combat more than 60 times and died a natural death. Katakiuchi nitô no eiyûki was one of many popular tales of vengeance and retribution, an example of the theatrical genre of "revenge plays" called katakiuchi mono (敵討物) or adauchi mono (仇打ち物). In one such incident, Musashi (here given the name Miyamoto Tomojirô) avenged the murder of his father by despatching his killer with a wooden sword, a lethal weapon in the hands of a master swordsman.

Design

This is one of at least four designs that Hokuei produced for this production at the Onishi no Shibai. In this scene, Tomojirô (Musashi) subdues two hapless adversaries while also gazing over at the elaborately dressed and coiffed high-ranking courtesan Musashino, who has unrolled a long, inscribed scroll.

Hokuei (and other artists of the period) occasionally added yellow grounds to their actor prints (yakusha-e: 役者). It was of a hue so close to the yellow grounds found in many Katsukawa-school yakusha-e in Edo during the 1770s-90s that it is likely Osaka artists found inspiration there.

References: IBKYS-II, no. 282 (R only); KNP-6, p. 250; IKB-I, no. 1-124; British Museum (BM1906 Morrison reg#1906,1220,0.1123); Musuem of Fine Arts, Boston (11.35263-4); National Museum of Prague (Vm385-1271-64-16)