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 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 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 has is a red sleeve her one time lover left behind. She shows the sleeve that she has kept with her always as 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)
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site last updated
October 1, 2020
Scholten Japanese Art
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New York, New York 10019
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