Ichikawa Ebizō V as Sekibei revealing his true identity as Evil Intriguer Ōtomo no Kuronushi

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III)

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III) - Ichikawa Ebizō V as Sekibei revealing his true identity as Evil Intriguer Ōtomo no Kuronushi
The sheet comes from the series “Comparing the Five Elements” (Nazorae gogyō zukushi no uchi) and is called “Wood Yearning for the Royal Crown” (Ōi wo nozomu ki). Ichikawa Ebizō V plays the character of the evil intriguer Ōtomo Kuronushi from the kabuki dance-drama “Toll” (Seki no to). It was written in 1784 by Takarada Jurai and is based on the Nō play Sumizome zakura. It tells the story of two 9th-century poets, Ono no Komachi and Ōtomo Kuronushi, protagonists of the group of Six Poet Geniuses Rokkasen. Ono no Komachi is the mistress of Munesada, who successfully forestalled the intrigues of the treacherous courtier Kuronushi against Emperor Tenmei. Seeking to kill Munesada, Kuronushi secretly follows him to the toll station near Ōsaka, where the protagonist is hiding, and the beautiful Komachi visits him there in the middle of winter. Kuronushi, disguised as the toll guard Sekibei wearing a simple winter kimono, gets drunk and wants to axe the sacred sakura tree in which the soul of the deceased emperor dwells. However, the ghost of the tree Sumizome stops him. The print shows Kuronushi’s portrait at the moment his true identity is revealed and his chequered padded kimono is switched for the courtier’s black brocade in a quick costume change. Courtier and poet Ōtomo Kuronushi wears grey makeup kumadori to suggest an unfavourable character, and has two dots painted above his eyebrows attesting to his high position at the imperial court (kurai-boshi). He wears a magnificent courtier garment and holds an axe in his hands with which he is about to cut the ancient sakura tree. Kunisada depicted the dance of the evil courtier and the ghost of the black sakura tree Sumizome in many variations, including the surimono genre, several times. (See Helena Honcoopová, Kunisada, Praha 2005, p. 207)
measurements: height 35,5 cm
width 24,5 cm
material: paper
technique: Colour woodblock print
inventory number: Vm 4426
gallery collection: Collection of Asian and African Art