Yamamura Koka, Toyonari, 1885-1942
Flowers of the Theatrical World: Nakamura Utaemon V as Owasa
(Rien no Hana: Nakamura Utaemon V)
with pale grey-blue background embellished with light silver mica; signed at right, Toyonari ga with oval date seal Taisho ju (Taisho 9 ), with rectangular artist's approval seal Toyonari on lower left margin, self-published with the support of the Yamamura Koka Hanga Kankokai (Publication Society of Yamamura Koka's prints), 1921
dai oban tate-e 16 1/4 by 11 3/8 in., 41.2 by 28.9 cm
The clue to identifying the role portrayed by Nakamura Utaemon V (1865-1940) is the piece of red fabric in the foreground. The character is Owasa from the play Gosho Zakura Horikawa no Youchi (Imperial Palace Cherry Blossoms and Horikawa Night Attack), a maruhonmono (drama originally based on puppet theater). In this scene, popularly known as the Benkei Joshi scene, Shinobu, a lady-in-waiting, is asked to give up her life in place of that of Yoshitsune's wife, Kyonokimi. Shinobu is surprised but agrees to submit as a loyal retainer. Her mother, Owasa, refuses to accept it and explains that her daughter has never met her father. In fact, even Owasa herself doesn't know his name or what he looks like- all she a red sleeve her one time lover left behind. She shows the sleeve that she has kept with her always a memento of the one night they were together. Owasa is unable to sway the attackers, and the final blow comes from a sword through a fusuma panel. Benkei emerges from behind the panel holding a bloody sword and pulls a matching red sleeve from beneath his kimono. He was Owasa's lover, and he has just murdered his own daughter.
Carolyn M. Putney, et al., Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints, 2013, p. 233, cat. 210 (edition of 150)
Shin'ei, dates unknown
Actor in the Role of Owasa
signed Shin'ei hitsu, with publisher Matsuki Heikichi's mark and seal, Ryogoku Ohira ban, ca. 1920s
15 1/8 by 10 1/8 in., 38.5 by 25.8 cm
There is little known about the artist Shin'ei who published actor prints with Matsuki Heikichi in the 1920s. Although the few known works by Shin'ei are not dated and do not name the actors depicted, the roles can be identified by comparison with kabuki portraits by other artists of the period. This design compares closely with a Yamamura Koka (Toyonari, 1885-1942) portrait (illustrated below) of the actor Nakamura Utaemon V as Owasa from the play Gosho Zakura Horikawa no Youchi (Imperial Palace Cherry Blossoms and Horikawa Night Attack) from 1921.
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