Kuniyoshi: Cat Witch, Cat Ghost and Dancing Cats Triptych (Sold)

  • Sold.

Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861)
Title: The Origin Story of the Cat Stone at Okabe, Representing One of the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido Road (Mitate Tokaido gojusan tsugi Okabe neko ishi no yurai). 

The scene is a deserted old temple along the Tokaido Road where a group of travelers have stopped for the night. Living there is a peculiar old woman who wears the garments of a court lady. However, her true nature is revealed when she bends over an oil lamp, as the shadow on the paper shade reveals that she is a nekomata, a cat witch, who cannot resist licking the oil in the lamp. Exposed, she transforms into a giant cat and devours some of the travellers, but is eventually defeated and transforms into a large rock. This play was first staged in 1827, but in 1847 it was included in Kikugoro’s retirement performance of his greatest hits. The kabuki actors from right are Sawamura Sojuro V as Teranishi Kanshin, Onoe Kikugoro III as the Cat Monster, and Ichimura Uzaemon XII as Oe Inabanosuke. Here we see two magical cats with forked tails dancing on their hind legs, heads covered with towels in front of the cat witch and her alter ego, the giant evil cat-spirit. The visage of the giant cat-spirit appears from behind the damaged screen, eyes hypnotic and terrifying. Oe Inabanosuke at left has snatched her round metal mirror and used it to expose her real identity.

Condition: Very good impression. Fair / poor color, good condition. Some hinge remnants verso.
Dimensions: ôban triptych (38 x 75 cm)
Literature: The Life of Animals in Japanese Art (2019), #129; MFA, Kuniyoshi & Kunisada (2016), #17; Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation, Nyan to mo neko darake/ Cats of Many Varieties (2012), #172. See BM, MFA, Chazen websites online. 
Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga
Publisher: Yama-ku