The play Otokodate itsutsu karigane (Karigane's five brave and chivalrous men: 男作五雁金) was written for the Takemoto puppet theater by Takeda Izumo I, who also managed the theater and was a co-author in 1748 of the wildly popular play Kanadehon chûshingura (Writing manual for the treasury of the loyal retainers: 假名手本忠臣蔵) or "Forty-seven rônin." Otokodate itsutsu karigane premiered in 9/1742 and quickly became one of the most popular Karigane gonin otoko mono (Karigane's five-men plays: 雁金五人男物) about the so-called otokodate (chivalrous commoners, literally "standing men": 男伊達 or 男作) in both the puppet and kabuki theaters. The real-life Karigane gonin were members of a loosely knit gang of 11 or more outlaws led by Karigane Bunshichi. Guilty of beatings, theft, and murder spanning several years, they were executed on 8/26/1702. Takeda's drama helped to mythologize these criminals and transform them from street thugs into heroes.
In Kagematsu's diptych, Anno Heibei, one of the Karigane gonin, confronts Noda Kakuzaemon, a samurai patron of the pleasure quarters, and of young male actor-prostitutes in particular. In a memorable scene from later in Takeda's play, the entire band of five Karigane gonin attack and murder Kakuzaemon near an Osaka theater.
The end of a shakuhachi (wooden flute: 尺八) is visible at Anno's back, an accessory (and occasional weapon) often associated with the Karigane gonin.
For this production, Ensaburô performed not only the role of Kakuzaemon, but also one of the Kariagne gonin, Hotei Ichiemon. Each of the Karigane gonin were associated with a particular emblem or crest:
- Anno Heibei's ideograph an ("tranquility": 安) — in gold-color brass on the left sleeve and in blue lower on the kimono in Kagematsu's diptych;
- Hotei Ichiemon's fan and sack;
- Kaminari Shôkurô's two crossed drum sticks;
- Karigane Bunshichi's stylized triple-geese hexagon;
- Gokuin Sen'emon's crossed mallets over a character from his name, reading sen (thousand).
We wonder whether the shift in pigment hues between the two sheets (not uncommon in ukiyo-e polyptychs, as individual sheets were sometimes printed independently during the production process) might have contributed to this diptych being separated in many instances — various collections have only one of the sheets (see references below).
This is only the second time we have been able to offer a print design by Kagematsu. Possibly a student of either Sadakage or Sadamasu, he was active in the 1830s-40s.
References: IKBYS-III, no. 208 (right sheet only); WAS-III, no. 205 (inv. 016-0443; left sheet only)