Kuniyoshi 國芳: Spirit of the Cat Stone and Dancing Cats 日本駄右エ門猫之古事

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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 國芳 (1797-1861)
Title: 日本駄右エ門猫之古事 The Story of Nippondaemon and the Cat (Nippondaemon neko no koji)
Date: 1847

Thrilling scene of the gigantic cat demon conjured by the Spirit of the Cat Stone breaking through the bamboo blinds of a derelict temple in Okazaki to attack the travelers who have stopped there to rest. This was based on Nanboku’s play “Traveling Alone Along the Fifty-three Stations”, written in 1827; it was such a blockbuster hit that several tribute plays were based on it, and Onoe Kikugoro made it a signature role. The story goes that a group of travelers stop at a derelict temple in Okazaki, where they are greeted by an old woman dressed in court dress and her cats. Her cats prove themselves to be extraordinary (bakeneko), as they dance on their hind legs, kerchiefs on their heads. In a pivotal moment, a lamp cast’s the woman’s shadow as a silhouette of a cat lapping oil from the lamp, revealing her to be a cat witch. The demonic woman is of course discovered and chased off by a sword-wielding hero, which here is the outlaw-hero Nippon Daemon.

The actors Onoe Kikugoro III as Kotoura (R), Onoe Kikugoro III as the Spirit of the Cat Stone (C), and Sawamura Sojuro V as Nippondaemon (L)

三代目尾上菊五郎の琴浦ヵ  三代目尾上菊五郎の猫石の精  「日本左衛門」五代目沢村宗十郎

Onoe Kikugoro III entered retirement in September 1847 after this final performance at the Ichimura theatre in a program called Onoe Baiju Ichidai Banashi, named after him. In his retirement, he took on the name Kikuya Manbei, and ran a mochi shop called the Kiku-ya, falling ill and dying the following year, 1848.

Condition: Very good impression, color and condition. Some repaired wormage and trimming.
Publisher: Yamamoto Heikichi

Literature: Nagoya City Mus., Takaki Shigeru Ukiyo-e Collection (2001), #17; Dai yôkai ten (2000), #101. See MFA 11.27023-5. See Marks “Japanese Yokai and Other Supernatural Beings”, page 25.

Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga     Size: Oban triptych (approx 36 x 73 cm)