- Museum number
Colour woodblock hosoban diptych. Actors Ichikawa Komazo II as Soga no Juro (R) and Ichikawa Danjuro V as Soga no Goro (L), in the kabuki play Sakai-cho Soga no nendaiki (Chronicle of the Soga of Sakai-cho), staged at Nakamura-za in first month 1771. Komazo with simple white make-up and emblem of plovers on robes. Danjuro with red make-up and butterfly pattern on costume. Pair holding torches against backdrop of scattered curtains hanging in temporary hunting lodges; Mt. Fuji in background. Trimmed. Signed and sealed.
- Production date
- 1771 (First month)
Height: 26.90 centimetres (c. each)
Width: 14 centimetres (c. each)
- Curator's comments
- Clark 2001
One of the most famous warrior narratives of the medieval period was 'Soga monogatari' ('Tales of the Soga'), based on an actual historical vendetta carried out in 1193, the revenge of the Soga brothers Juro Sukenari and Goro Tokimune on their father's murderer Kudo Suketsune. On the night of the 28th of the fifth month the brothers staged a daring night attack on Kudo, an important retainer of Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo, bursting into his tent and killing him during a hunting expedition led by Yoritomo in the foothills of Mt Fuji. Much embroidered stories of the lives and loves of Juro and Goro featured in almost all subsequent genres of drama and literature: by the late 18th century, for example, it was customary for every New Year performance in the three Kabuki theatres of Edo to feature a version of the Soga story. The character of Goro, in particular, became one of the main vehicles for displays of the 'rough stuff' ('aragoto') acting style, performed by successive incumbents of the leading Ichikawa Danjuro lineage of actors.
Though trimmed so as to lose the top of Mt Fuji and with its blues and purples severely faded, it is quite rare for both sheets of a diptych of prints in the 'hosoban' format to have survived from this period. The design relates to a performance staged at the Nakamura theatre in the New Year of 1771. Ichikawa Komazo II, who specialized in romantic (but not at all tough) leading roles - hence his simple white make-up - plays the role of Juro, with the characteristic emblem of plovers on his robes (right). The young Ichikawa Danjuro V, who had succeeded to the name just two months earlier, brings far greater bravura to the part of Goro, with strong red 'kumadori' make-up and butterfly pattern on his costume (left). The pair pose holding torches, against a backdrop of the scattered curtains that hang in the temporary hunting lodges. Prominent on the curtain between them is the 'bird's-nest in a hut' ('iori-mokko') crest of Kudo Suketsune, the enemy they seek. In his commentary on this print, the Kabuki historian Hattori Yukio has pointed out that since on this occasion the 'night revenge' scene was scheduled as the grand finale of part four of a long performance (given the overall title 'Sakai-cho Soga nendaiki'), it is quite likely that the scene was never actually performed. However, it would have been easy for Buncho to draw from his imagination such a dramatic scene of confrontation between two superstars with such opposite characters, who regularly appeared in similar roles. Hattori also notes that the composition may be based in part on an earlier 'hosoban' diptych design by Torii Kiyomasu II (Tokyo National Museum) that records a performance of 1729 ('Hizo ukiyo-e taikan', vol. 2, 1987, no. 57 (commentary by Hattori Yukio)).
Binyon, Laurence. 'A Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Woodcuts in the British Museum'. London, British Museum, 1916, [Buncho] no. 6.
'Ukiyo-e shuka, vol. 11: Daiei Hakubutsukan'. Tokyo, Shogakkan, 1979, nos 98-9 (commentary by Yamaguchi Keisaburo).
'Hizo ukiyo-e taikan'. vol. 2,Tokyo, Kodansha, 1987, no. 57 (commentary by Hattori Yukio).
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2001, 11 May-29 Jul, BM Japanese Galleries, '100 Views of Mount Fuji'
2014, Jan- April BM Japanese Galleries, ‘Japan from prehistory to the present’
- Associated events
- Associated Event: New Year (Performance staged at the Nakamura theatre in the New Year of 1771)
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Soga monogatari (Tales of the Soga)
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: B6