The play Keisei somewake tazuna (A courtesan's reins dyed in different colors: けいせい染分總) or 契情染分總), written by Nagawa Harusuke and the superstar actor Nakamura Utaemon III (under his pen name Kanazawa Ryûgyoko), premiered in 1/1822. It has been reported that the accomplished dramatist Harusuke became so enraged at what he believed to be a poorly constructed play that he attacked his co-writer Utaemon with a knife. The play was adapted, as were quite a number of other plays, from Koi nyôbô somewake tazuna (Love and a wife's reins dyed in different colors: 恋女房染分手綱) first staged in 1751. The earlier play was itself a revision of Chikamatsu Monzaemon's 1707 puppet drama Tanba Yosaku matsuyo no komuro-bushi (丹波与作待夜の小室節 first adapted by Kabuki in 1708 as Tanba no Yosaku, 丹波与作 or "Yosaku from Tanba"), which it mostly follows while adding a subplot involving the Yurugi daimyô (military lord: 大名). As such, the diversion is an adauchi-mono (vendetta play: 仇打ち物) in the style of jidaimono (history plays, lit., "period pieces": 時代物) adapted from Chikamatsu's sewamono (domestic dramas, lit. "everyday pieces": 世話物).
The story involves a shop owner and his older brother who stop conspirators from stealing the treasures of the Yurugi daimyô family, and features Sankichi, a tabakokiri (tobacco cutter: 煙草切), who emerges as the hero of the drama. The main theme involves Shigenoi, a lady-in-waiting at the Yurugi estate who is having an affair with Date Yosaku, a retainer to Saemon Yurugi, daimyô of Tanba. Yurugi gives him 300 ryô (gold coins) to ransom Iroha, a geisha in Gion, but the money is stolen by another retainer named Sagizuka Kandayû. (In the original Chikamatsu's version, Yosaku is a profligate who gambles away the money.) Shigenoi and Yosaku have had a child together, but their illicit relationship threatens to end in her exile or death until her father, a Nô actor, performs Dôjôji in which he commits seppuku (ritual suicide) to atone for his daughter's crime. Yurugi is moved by the performance and allows Shigenoi to remain as wet nurse (menoto, 乳人) to his infant daughter Shirabe-hime, although she is separated from her son and Yosaku is banished. He is then compelled to earn a living as a pack-horse driver. The play continues well into later years when Iroha, who changes her name to Seki no Koman (Koman from Seki), and falls in love with Yosaku. He is given 300 ryô by his brother-in-law (a blind masseur named Keimasa) and, by chance, is reunited with his son, called Jinejo no Sankichi, also a pack-horse driver (mago, 馬子). Much later, Yosaku and Sankichi (by then called Yonosuke) defeat the villains who by this time had slain Keimasa and, finally, Yosaku is welcomed back into the Yurugi household, where he lives with Shigenoi as his wife and Koman as his mistress.
The actors and roles portrayed on this triptych are: (1R) Nakamura Nakasuke II (二代目 中村仲介) as Washizuka Kandayû (わし塚官太夫), Onoe Shôju I (初代 尾上松寿) as Sagizaka Sanai (鷺坂左内), Fujikawa Tomokichi III (三代目 藤川友吉) as Courtesan (keisei) Sakuragi (けいせいさくら木); (2R), Onoe Tamizô II (二代目 尾上多見蔵) as Yurugi Saemon (由留木左衛門), Arashi Kichisaburô III (三代目 嵐吉三郎) as Saitô Kuranosuke (齋藤内蔵之介), Jitsukawa Enzaburô I (初代 実川延三郎) as the Boatman (sendô) Kajizô (船頭梶蔵); (3R), Nakamura Jakuemon I (初代 中村雀右衛門) as the Wet nurse (menoto) Kozasa (乳人小笹), Arashi Rinshi I (初代 嵐鱗子) as Date Yosaku (伊達与作), and Asao Daikichi I (初代 浅尾大吉) as Yurugi Umanosuke (の由留木右馬ノ介).
Surprisingly, the role of "Tobacco-cutter" (tabakokiri) Sankichi is not included in this panoply of actors. In one scene that is often shown in actor prints, Saitô Kuranosuke (齋藤蔵之助) conjures up a giant serpent in a confrontation with Sankichi (see YSK27 and HKS11).
Arrangements of large numbers of actors on a single sheet or polyptychs were popular in Osaka (and Edo) printmaking. An array of cast members would have appealed to various sorts of print buyers, most certainly those who were fans of kabuki as an art and entertainment form, rather than aficionados who were exceedingly loyal, if not obsessed, with a particular star from the stage. Even so, the latter type of fan-club member would still often be interested in acquiring a design such as Yoshitaki's triptych for the sake of a memento of the cast in a successful production, as long as their beloved performer was included among the portraits.
This design is surely one of Yoshitaki's most elaborately printed works. Our impression includes an over-printed metallic "key-fret" pattern (saya, 紗綾) on the robe of Onoe Tamizô II in the center sheet that is lacking on the impression in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (see ref. below). The colors here are very good, with only a slight diminution of red and purple. The chromatic palette is typical of the pigment choices made for late-Edo-period actor prints (yakusha-e: 役者絵) in Osaka. The introduction of the bright (some would say garish) colors associated with Meiji-period ukiyo-e had not yet taken place.
For more about this artist, see Yoshitaki Biography.
- IKBYS-5, no. 183.
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Acc #11.36158a-c)