Kunisada: Cat Stone Kabuki Diptych

Utagawa Kunisada

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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada
Title: Kabuki Diptych with Bold Background Pattern
Date: 1861/7th month

This print is untitled, but this must refer to the Kabuki play “Tokaido iroha Diary” (Tokaido iroha nikki), written by Kawatake Mokuami and performed as a new kyógen piece for the fall season of the cock year (1861) at the Ichimura-za theater in Edo.  It must be the second scene of the 6th act, namely, Hashimura in Okazaki, which is famous for a mysterious cat stone. In this print Suwa Kazuemon by Nakamura Shikan (right) wears hakama trousers with the pattern of dragonflies. Apparition of the Cat Stone (nekoishi no kai), played by Ichimura Uemon (left) is disguised as Mizuki Tatsuse but she displays her right hand suggesting a cat’s forepaw. She has a kimono with the pattern of pampas. Dragonflies and pampas are symbols of  the fall season. Above Tatsuse, the notice for the audience says: “The old people and the maids! From now on please leave the place quietly“.  The backdrop of the scene seems a simple curtain which is divided into two: above is shibori tie-dye pattern with two family crests: tomoe whorl (left) and plum (right). According to the source in Nihon Geijutsu Bunka Shinkókai (The Japan Arts and Culture Foundation) the title Tokaido in this way of writing, namely “East Station 東駅“, means the Tokaido starting from Kyoto, not Tokyo and ends at Kyoto. Especially the story of a disguised cat stone at Okazaki had been very popular since it was performed by young Onoe Kikugoró V.  The second word of the title “i,ro,ha“ (いろは), the first three letters of old Japanese hiragana alphabet with 47 letters refer to the 47 rónins of Chúshingura Akó-róshi. Therefore, it says that this title combines the idea of the fifty-three stations of Tokaido and the forty-seven Akó-rónins. The printing on this work is of exceptional quality, and the color of the background is quite unusual.

Condition: Excellent impression, color and condition.
Dimensions: ôban Diptych

Signature: Toyokuni ga

Publisher: Izutsu-ya


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