Kobayakawa Kiyoshi, (1896-1948)
Snow at the Dormitory (Ryo no Yuki)
Naojiro - Chiyoharu- Michitose
set of three paintings, ink and colors on silk; each signed Kiyoshi and sealed Kiyoshi, each with tomobako signed Kiyoshi and sealed Kobayakawa, the lid of each box inscribed with the subject of the paintings, Chiyoharu, Ryo no Yuki (depciting Naojiro), and Michitose; ca. 1920
painting 44 7/8 by 11 in., 114 by 28 cm
overall 78 3/4 by 17 7/8 in., 200 by 45.5 cm
This set of three paintings illustrates a scene from the kabuki play, Yuki Kurete Iriya no Azemichi ('Snow-Fall Ending on the Embankment Road at Iriya'), popularly known as Naozamurai ('Faithful Samurai'). The center painting depicts the samurai-turned-outlaw, Naojiro (ironically nicknamed 'Naozamurai') wearing a tenugi (cloth) tied around his head and holding an umbrella; the left painting depicts his lover, the courtesan Michitose of the Yoshiwara Oguchiya reading a letter, and the right painting depicts her shinzo, Chiyoharu, holding a lantern while walking in the snow.
The scene takes place at the Oguchi Ryo, a dormitory in Iriya owned by the proprietor of the Oguchiya where Michitose was convalescing and desperately awaiting news from her lover, Naojiro, who she had not seen for some time. Naojiro, who had represented himself to still be a wealthy samurai to Michitose, was actually a member of a prominent gang and had recently been forced to go into hiding because he was wanted by the police. The letter Michitose is reading is from Naojiro, who promises to see her before he leaves Edo, but he does not explain his recent absence. Later, when Naojiro finally does reunite with Michitose and confesses his true position, Michitose surprises him because she had known all along his true identity and promises to commit suicide if he is captured and executed so that they may be reborn together. The play ends with the police capturing Naojiro, dragging him off stage, and the two lovers calling out for each other.
Samuel L. Leiter, The Art of Kabuki: Five Famous Plays, Courier Dover Publications, 1999, pp. 205-254
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