November delivery from Japan

This was a pre-Christmas delivery of interesting yakusha-e prints from the Japanese auctions. 

This print is a classic scene from a famous play called “Kiwametsuki Banzui Chōbē” (“the last days of Banzui Chōbē”) featuring a type of character called a “chivalrous commoner”. While confronting a drunk and an arrogant samurai at a kabuki performance he inadvertently humiliates the local lord (who they work for). He is later invited to a party by the lord, who he understands will kill him, but his honour compels him to attend, nonetheless. Chōbē’s honour contrasts with the evil lord who would get his henchmen to ambush & kill him. 

The next pair of images is a design called “Ichikawa Kuzō III & Ichikawa Danjūrō IX in the “Goten Yukashita no ba” scene in the play “Date Kurabe Okuni Kabuki” performed at the Kabuki-za theatre from February 1895”. The second image is just the right-hand pages and is considerably more colourful because it presumably hasn’t faded as much as the first sheet. In fact if you look closely the first image is exhibiting yellow fading, leaving greens blue, yellows white and oranges pink.  

Lastly a print by one of my favourite artists, Toyohara Chikayoshi, the pupil and wife of Kunichika. She produced relatively few images in her short career and these tended to be a mixture of Meiji court scenes (as above) and more traditional yakusha-e, but she was incredibly unusual in being a female artist in a male-dominated world. Not only were the artists nearly all men, but the carvers and printers all belonged to male artisanal guilds and even the kabuki actors were all male. 

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