True Feelings Compared: Hambei and Ochiyo
(Jitsu kurabe iro no minakami: Yaoya Hambei, Kosho Ochiyo)
signed Utamaro hitsu with censor's seal kiwame (approved) and publisher's mark Tomoe and seal Cho-han (Nishimuraya Cho), ca. 1798
oban tate-e 15 3/8 by 10 3/8 in., 39.1 by 26.5 cm
While Utamaro excelled at stylized depictions of beauties, that did not oblige him to present an idealized view of their lives. He frequently probed the less-glamorous aspects of the day to day realities of the women of his milieu, and he did not shy away from exploring uncomfortable emotions. Presumably in response to the public's fascination with tragic tales dramatically presented in the kabuki and bunraku puppet theaters, in 1798-99, Utamaro produced three separate series of half-length portraits of ill-fated couples from history and love suicide joruri (chanted recitals). This print is from the best known of the series, True Feelings Compared, with twenty-one designs recorded, each bearing one of two different publisher seals; some are marked Sei han (published by Sei), the others marked Cho han (published by Cho), like this one. Clark and Asano assert that the similarity with the Nishimuraya Yohachi seal suggests that Sei and Cho were affiliated with the more established Eijudo publishing house.
This print depicts the principals of the story based on the real-life Osaka greengrocer Hambei who committed double suicide with his beloved wife Ochiyo in 1722. As the story goes, the pair were driven to it by the relentless maneuverings of his jealous mother. Their tragedy became the subject of a popular play, Love Suicide on the Night of the Koshin Vigil (Shinju yoi koshin), authored by the great playwright Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724) shortly before his death. This is one of only seven recorded impressions of this print.
Albert Maroni, Paris (1853-1923)
Edward M. Watzik, Briarcliff Manor, New York (1915-2000)
The Albert Maroni Collection of Japanese Color Prints, Part II, Kende Galleries at Gimbel Brothers, New York, 1948, no. 123 (frontispiece illus.)
Shoriya Aragoro, kabuki21.com
Jack Hillier, Japanese Colour Prints, 1966, no. 38 (British Museum)
Gian Carlo Calza, Stampe Populari Giapponesi, 1979, no. 188 (ex Walter Amstutz Collection)
Ukiyo-e Shuka, vol. 3, 1978, listed p. 244, no. 367.19
Ukiyo-e Shuka, vol. 9, 1981, p. 189, no. 45 (Oberlin College) Roger S. Keyes, Japanese Woodblock Prints: A Catalogue of the Mary A. Ainsworth Collection, 1984, p. 170 (Oberlin College) Asano & Clark, The Passionate Art of Kitagawa Utamaro, 1995, text pp. 195-198, nos. 298-306 (on series)
Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, ex Mary A. Ainsworth Collection, accession no. A286, 50.419
British Museum, accession no. 1929,0611,0.6
Legion of Honor, San Francisco, ex Carlotta Mabury Collection, accession no. 54755.191
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, ex William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.14306; and ex Spaulding Collection, accession no. 21.6433
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