Toyokuni III, Nakamura Utaemon III as Gokumon Shobei

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865

Nakamura Utaemon III as Gokumon Shobei, Bando Mitsuguro III as Kurofune Chuemon, and Onoe Baiko III as Yasuke

signed Gototei Kunisada ga, with censor's seal (trimmed) kiwame, and publisher's seal (possibly) Yamato (Yamashiroya Toemon, ca. 1801-17), ca. 1815

oban yoko-e 10 by 14 5/8 in., 25.5 by 37.3 cm

This rare horizontal actor print by Kunisada captures a dynamic moment from the play, Godairiki iro no minato, a variation of the play Godairiki koi no Fujime (Five Great Powers that Secure Love) staged at the Nakamura Theater in Edo on the 3rd lunar month in 1815. The scene features a brawl between the actors Nakamura Utaemon III as Gokumon no Shobei, Bando Mitsugoro III (1775-1831) as the boatman Kurofune Chuemon, and Onoe Baiko III (1784-1849) as the servant Yasuke. Kunisada's teacher, Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825) produced a diptych of this subject with the roles of Gokumon no Shobei and Chuemon each occupying a full oban sheet; later portrayals of the confrontation change the background from the steep stone steps to an arched wood bridge- likely a reflection of changes to the script as it was modified in various productions.

Reference:
Arendie & Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 268-274 (on Godairiki koi no Fujime)
Waseda University Theatre Museum (enpaku.waseda.ac.jp), accession nos. 002-1061 (this print) and 101-0339 (left sheet of Toyokuni I diptych)

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