Hiroshige 歌川広重: Triptych of the Kabuki Theater Street
Artist: Utagawa Hiroshige 広重 (1797-1858)
Title: Picture of Prospering Eastern Capital (Tôto han-ei no zu 東都繁栄の図)
Here we see the Ichimura-za kabuki theater with its "yagura", the high wooden stage covered with a curtain, decorated with Tachibana, the family crest of Ichimura Uzaemon. Over the roof two lanterns are hanging in the center and on both sides of a miniature kabuki scene. Above the entrance we see a long collection of pictures from various scenes that are mounted, as well as the programs of day and evening performances in the writing on the left. Many tables at the entrance have signs saying kido ⽊⼾, entrance cashier.
This scene must be depicting the month of November, the first performance of each year, when kaomise 顔⾒世 takes place. At the kaomise, the performance pieces of Kabuki drama and their actors were introduced. It was a very festive occasion, as we can see many gifts from sponsors that are heaped up in front of the tea houses. These gifts include sake barrels, manjû cakes in seirô bamboo steamer boxes from Tora-ya , rice in straw sacks, charcoal, shoyu. We can also recognize some scenes above the tea houses, presenting (from the left) festive sign of sunrise behind pine tree with cranes, “sanbaso 三番叟” from noh, the Seven Gods of Good Fortune 七福神 in the treasure ship, Takara-bune, and scene of “shibaraku 暫“. According to the map of Saruwaka-machi, there are three tea houses and one hanmoto publishers to the left of the theater: from left Oogi-ya, hanmoto, Yorozu-ya, and Oomi-ya. The lanterns along the tea houses carry Hiroshige’s seal, Hiro with a broken chrysanthemum.
This is one of three triptychs which portray the three Kabuki theaters–namely Nakamura-za 中村座, Ichimura-za, 市村座and Kawarazaki-za 河 原崎座. These were clustered on Saruwaka-machi 猿若町as the street of Kabuki theaters in 1842, following the destruction of theaters by the fire as well as the Order of Tempo Reformation: Nakamura-za on 1-chome, Ichimura-za on 2-chome, and Kawarazaki-za on 3-chome of Saruwakamachi Street. This street became the most popular entertainment area for the Edo people, who could combine worshipping at the temple Sensô-ji in Asakusa with a visit to the theater. The street also had Shibai-chaya, tea houses related to the theaters.
The activities on the street are most interesting. Many food delivery men are busily navigating through the crowd. A detailed and fascinating glimpse of the important cultural epicenters that the kabuki theaters created, done with Hiroshige's unerring eye for detail and composition. (With thanks to Michiko Sato-Grube for her research.)
Condition: Very good impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: ôban triptych (36.1 x 75 cm)
Publisher: Izutsu-ya 井筒屋
Signature: Hiroshige ga