Kunichika: Nakamura Shikan IV and Haunted Corn Stalks

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Artist: Toyohara Kunichika
Title: Nakamura Shikan IV and Haunted Corn Stalks
Series: Flowers of the East: Caricature by Kunichika (Azuma no hana : Kunichika manga)
Date: 1872

The kabuki actor Nakamura Shikan IV as the evil Tamiya Iemon. Unusual scene from the classic Tokaido Yotsuya Ghost Story. Iemon, out of greed and lust for another, causes the death of his wife Oiwa and nails her body and the body of another man that he killed to either side of a wooden board, and then throws the board in the river. This must be the scene where Iemon goes eel fishing later in the story and pulls ashore the board with the bodies of the two people he has murdered. He is so haunted by the ghosts of his two victims that he eventually goes mad and never finds a moment’s peace. I would guess that the two ears of corn with haunted faces are the ghostly visages of his two victims, who torment him wherever he goes. Tortured by his own guilt and paranoia, he must see the ghosts everywhere. Iemon is here eying the strange ears of corn with suspicion, hand on his sword hilt. We see the long hairs of the dead Oiwa and the edge of the board in the lower left corner. The “flowers” of Tokyo in the title refer to the eminent actors of the day. Deluxe, first impression with burnishing on the black details, blindprinting on the green cord and exceptional printing details.

Condition: Excellent impression and color; very good condition. With backing and nibble in lower left corner. Two minute worm holes near top.
Dimensions: ôban (35.4 x 24 cm)
Publisher: Yorozu-ya Magobei
Signature: Toyohara Kunichika hitsu (with toshidama seal)
Literature: See MFA, Waseda online.