JAPANESE PRINTS

A MILLION QUESTIONS

TWO MILLION MYSTERIES

 

Ukiyo-e Prints

浮世絵版画

Port Townsend, Washington

 

 

UTAGAWA TOYOKUNI III

三代目歌川豊国

さんだい(目).うたがわ.とよくに

1786-1865

 
 

 Play: An Ise love piece -

(I am unsure of the exact translation of the title)

 
 

 外題: 伊勢  恋湊

 
 

Actor: Iwai Kumesaburō

岩井粂三郎

いわいくめさぶろう

 
 

Role: Aburaya Okon

油屋おこん

あぶらや.おこん

 Okon of the Abura-ya teahouse

 
 

Signature: Toyokuni ga

 
 

Publisher: Yamaguchiya Tōbei

山口屋藤兵衛

やまぐちやとうべえ

 
 

Date: 1855, 4th Month

Ansei 2

安政2

 
 

Print Size: 14 1/4" x 9 5/8"

 
 

Matt Size: 20" x 16"

 
 

 This is the right-hand panel of a triptych

 
 

 Illustrated: There is another copy of this print at the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University

on-line (their site is in Japanese)

 
 

 

 
 

$245.00

 

 

 

 

IT WAS A BLOODY MESS

 

In 1796 in the town of Furuichi near the Ise Shrine a drunken doctor went on a murderous rampage in the local Aburaya brothel. Before it was over a number of people lay dead or wounded including the maid Oman. Two days later the doctor committed suicide at the home of his uncle who was  a low-ranking priest at the shrine.

 

This series of events and others like it had been fuel for the creative talents of 18th century authors. Within ten days the first performances of a play based on this incident was being performed in a town nearby. Its success spurred Chikamatsu Tokuzō (近松徳三 or ちかまつ.とくぞう:1751-1810) and two of his assistants to create their own version which debuted in Kyōto just two and  a half months later. Supposedly written in only three days this qualifies it as an "overnight pickle play" or ichiyazuke kyogen (一夜漬狂言 or いちやづけ.きょうげん).

 

Like other murderous plays this one was often performed during the summer "...when the bloodcurdling doings on stage might provide audiences some 'chilling' relief in sultry weather."

 

Okon's lover is the sensitive Mitsugi, but when he takes possession of a bloodthirsty sword his whole personality changes. Okon is the heroine, but her role is somewhat secondary. Although Mitsugi leaves a stage littered with the dead and dying he is never blamed. The sword is.  After several more dramatic scenes three figures 'pose triumphantly' at the end including Mitsugi and Okon. While this leaves the audience thinking this might be a happy ending it is nevertheless slightly ambiguous - "...Okon's fate remains vague."

 

Source and quotes from: Kabuki Plays On Stage: Villainy and Vengeance, 1773-1799, edited by James R. Brandon and Samuel L. Leiter. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2002, pp. 320-22.

 

 

 

MY GOODNESS!

PRINTS NEVER FAIL TO AMAZE ME

 

 

 

 

 

The image on the right above is a detail from the clothing of the onnagata, i.e., male actor in a female role, as you would normally view it. The image on the left of approximately the same area was taken at an oblique angle in a brightly sunlit room. One could own this print for decades and never notice the burnishing. And yet, isn't it amazing the pride the publisher took in the production of a piece which most connoisseurs would view as a pleasant, but rather ordinary print?

 

 

We noted another Toyokuni III example recently which exhibits a similar attention to detail. Although that example was published by another house and was marketed several years earlier it displays the same qualities. To read more about that one click on the dragon's head below.

 
 

 

 

 

 

FOR OTHER EXAMPLES OF THIS SPECIAL PRINTING TECHNIQUE

CLICK ON THE EXAMPLE BELOW.

 
 

 

 

Direct purchase may be made through check or money order

or by payment through PayPal.

 

Contact us if you are interested.

jv@printsofjapan.com

 

 

HOME