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Kunihiro (國廣)

(1R) Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Aratama Tarô (荒玉太良); (2R) Iwai Shijaku I (岩井紫若) as Tokuwaka-hime (徳若姫); (3R) Arashi Rikan II (嵐璃寛) as Takara Rai [Horai ?] Kamemaru (宝来亀丸); (4R) Nakamura Matsue III (中村松江) as Chitose-hime (千とせ姫) in unidentified play (mitate?)
ôju (by request) Kunihiro ga (応需國廣画)
No artist seal
Carver Seals: (1R) hori Fujimatsu (ホリふじ松); (2R) hori Kasuke (ホリカスケ); (3R and 4R) hori Fujisada (ホリ藤定)
Printer Seals: (1R) suri Nao (スリ直); (2R) suri Kanu (スリカヌ); (3R and 4R) suri Tomo (スリ友)
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞); Ten Shinsaibashi Tenki Hachimansuj (天 心斎橋 天喜 八幡筋)i
Mitate-e, circa 1/1830
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
37.6 x 102.8 cm
Excellent color, unbacked; multiple expertly filled wormholes, mostly on the edges, two thin patches reinforced, light album creases
Price (USD/¥):
$2,750 / Contact us to pay in yen (¥)

Order/Inquiry KUH48


This dramatic tetraptych is a mitate-e (lit., "view and compare picture," meaning an analogue print: 見立絵) for a production that never took place with these actors in these roles. Moreover, it appears that the role names are entirely invented and meant to evoke prosperity and a long life. As such, the design was probably issued at the New Year. Thus, what we have here is a spectacular New Year's "greeting card" in the form of a woodblock printed imaginary kabuki scene.

For another similar design by Kunihiro, see KUH39.


The third sheet depicts Arashi Rikan II as Takara Rai Kamemaru conjuring a snake, which can be seen in the cloud form emanating from his hands (held in a necromancer's gesture). This supernatural occurrence is signaled as well by the lightning bolts visible on all four sheets.

The colors on this impression are very well preserved, and the printing is quite early. The naming of the carvers and printers, as here, typically indicates a special production. Truly, this is an exceptional design by Kunihiro.

References: SDK (Lühl), no. 481, pp. 224-225; Tokyo Fuji Art Museum