Nothing is known about the artist Tsunemaru (常丸) and prints by him are very rare. This is the first time we have been able to offer a print by this artist since we launched our website in 2005. Given the date of the print discussed here, he was active in Osaka during the mid-Tenpô period (1830-42).
The Chigo Deep Water (Chigo ga fuchi) in the play title was located off the island of Enoshima. It was there in the twelfth century that a young acolyte or temple page (chigo) named Shiragikumaru committed suicide rather than choose between two priests who vied for his love. The play Keisei chigogafuchi (A courtesan and deep water at Chigo: けいせい稚児淵), along with Chigogafuchi koi no shiranami (Chigo deep water and the white waves of love: 児渕恋白浪), combined the legends of the outlaw Goemon with a revenge tale involving Shiragikumaru (renamed Sutewakamaru in the kabuki dramas). The conflated saga includes Sutewakamaru vowing to avenge the death of Takechi Mitsuhide who had been slain by Mashiba Hisayoshi (the theatrical namesake for the historical shôgun Toyotomi Hideyoshi). This links the Sutewakamaru plot with various Ishikawa Goemon mono ("plays about Ishikawa Goemon"), the legendary fugitive outlaw during the reign of Hideyoshi. Late in the play, Sutewakamaru transforms into Goemon.
In this scene Sutewakamaru appears to be holding an heirloom sword (wrapped in red cloth) while subduing a rather rough-looking, hirsuite adversary — the latter played by an unnamed walk-on actor. The action takes place by a waterfall with a hard slanting rain adding a dynamic touch to the intense portrayal.
This impression was formerly in the Okada Isajiro (岡田伊三次郎) collection, a celebrated private Japanese compilation not seen in public for more than 70 years until its near-miraculous reappearance and gradual dispersal starting in the year 2000 — a blockbuster event in the world of kamigata-e. The collection is featured in Kuroda Genji's 1929 Kamigata-e ichiran, Review of Kamigata Pictures (see KAM in Bibliography).
We are pleased to provide this special opportunity to acquire such a rare Osaka print.
References: WB, no. 1-2, p.17