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Yoshikuni (芳國)

Description:
Nakamura Shikan II (中村芝翫) as Sano Gensaemon (佐野源左衛門) inKaikei natsu no hachinoki (男夏鉢の木), Naka Theater, Osaka
Signature:
Jukôdô Yoshikuni ga (寿好堂よし国画)
Seals:
No artist seal
Publisher:
Honsei (Honya Seishichi)
Date:
7/1826
Format:
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
36.8 x 24 cm
Impression:
Excellent
Condition:
Excellent color and overall condition, unbacked; small expertly repaired wormhole near Shikan signature
Price (USD/¥):
$475 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry: YSK28

Comments:
Background

Kaikei natsu no hachinoki (Potted trees and a man in summer: 男夏鉢の木) is a play derived from a drama in the classical  theater and from subsequent kabuki adaptations. The better known kabuki variant is called Yayoi ni hiraku ando no funahashi (三月開 嬉心船橋), derived from the  play Hachinoki (The potted trees: 鉢木). The lord of Kamakura, Hôjô Tokiyori, while traveling in disguise as a priest, seeks shelter from deep snow and freezing temperatures at the house of Tsuneyo, the former lord of Sano, who is impoverished following the confiscation of his lands by duplicitous kinsmen. Tsuneyo sends the priest away, claiming he has no room, and suggests that the priest look for lodging in the next village. Tsuneyo calls the priest back, however, when his wife admonishes him, saying their wretched state is the consequence of their past sins and that more unkindness will bring ruin in their next life. When the night cold keeps him awake, Tsuneyo, much saddened, cuts his cherished bonsai ("tray planting" or potted trees: 盆栽) of plum, cherry, and pine, setting them on fire to keep the priest warm. When Tokiyori asks why Tsuneyo does not stake his claim before the lord of Kamakura, Tsuneyo replies that he has heard his lord is away on a pilgrimage. He adds that he would gladly don his broken armor, take up his rusty spear, and mount his weakened horse to defend his lord from harm. In a later scene, Tokiyori sends orders for all the lords of the eastern provinces to gather at Kamakura. He then asks to see the most ill-equipped lord, whereupon Tsuneyo, poorly attired, walks toward Tokiyori, thinking he is about to be executed. As the splendidly dressed lords look upon Tsuneyo with derision, Tokiyori reveals that he was the priest whom Tsuneyo had sheltered, and that for keeping his word to fight for his lord, returns to Tsuneyo his lands in Sano, along with three more estates, to compensate for the three bonsai Tsuneyo had sacrificed.

In Yayoi ni hiraku ando no funahashi, the mistreated lord is named Sano Genzaemon (佐野源左衛門), and the priest/lord Saimyô-ji Tokiyori Nyûdô (最明寺時頼入道). Genzaemon is robbed of his lands by a wicked uncle. Other story lines are woven into the plot, but essentially Genzaemon looks to regain possession of his ancestral lands and win a Kamakura guarantee for his legitimate right to ownership.

Design

Shikan II as Genzaemon strikes a defiant and heroic pose associated with samurai. His katana (sword: 刀) remains in its saya (scabbard: 鞘), and he holds a naginata (halberd: 長刀 or 薙刀). The drawing of the lower hem of his robe is unusual, as it has been rendered with a bold agitated quality in thicker lines than elsewhere in the costume.

The poem is signed by the actor Shikan II and reads in Japanese: Mi tokoro mo / arashi Natsuno no / sakura asa (見ところもあらし夏野のさくら麻).

Our impression might be the same as the one illustrated in Osaka kagami (see OK ref. below). Note that the play cited there is incorrect.

References: IKBYS-I, no. 392 (inv #Z0451-392); WAS-IV, no. 323 (inv #016-0020); OK, no. 50