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Subject:Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: Stan Sat, Sep 26, 2020 IP: 2601:18c:504:a6e0:44

I recently purchased 7 Kunisada prints. When researching one, I came across quite a puzzle.

Being lazy, the first thing I did was an image search and got a hit at the Waseda Unversity Theater Museum (WUTM).
Note the striking similarity between the WUTM print on the left and mine on the right.
The publisher (lower left) is the same for both prints.

There are a couple of major differences. The WUTM print is by Kuniyoshi and depicts the actor Bando Tamasaburo I.
My print is by Kunisada and depicts the actor Onoe Kikugoro III (if I got it right).

The common thread is the three characters at the upper right of each actor's name.
I believe that is the role the actor is playing. Can anyone translate those 3 characters? (Please I. Nagy?)

With this information, I jumped to the conclusion that both actors were playing the same role in a play in 1835 (the date the WUTM attributed to the Kuniyoshi print).

I then went to the Kabuki21 website and tried to cross the actors looking for a play in 1835.
Unfortunately, neither actor was that famous. While they are mentioned on the Kabuki21 website, the history of their performances is not available for 1835.

This leaves me with a number of questions. Why two such similar prints by two different artists of two different actors?
Are my assumptions correct? Who copied whom? Did something happen (illness?) to one actor and the other have to take his place?

If you can solve this mystery, you are my hero(ine)!


Subject:Re: Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: Stan Sun, Sep 27, 2020

I figured out that the 3 character role is Osono which I believe is a role in the Kanadehon Chushingura kabuki play. Bando Tamasaburo I was in that play in lunar month 8 of 1835, but he played the role of Okaru. Iwai Hanshiro VI played Osono. Onoe Kikugoro was in the Kanadehon Chushingura in 1833, but he also played Okaru, not Osono. If the role was Okaru my mystery would be solved. And Kunisada would have come first to later be copied by Kuniyoshi. Close.


Subject:Re: Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: I.Nagy Sun, Sep 27, 2020

I can't solve the mystery, but I can read the inscriptions,
Left side,
おその    - Osono
坂東玉三郎 - Bandō Tamasaburō
- Bandō Tamasaburō in role of Osono
一勇斎 國芳画 - Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi-ga

Publisher's mark,
川正 - Kawaguchiya Shōzō (川口屋正蔵)

Right side,
おその     - Osono
尾上菊五郎 - Onoe Kikugoro
- Onoe Kikugoro in role of Osono
五渡亭 國貞画 - Gototei Kunisada-ga

With regards,

Subject:Re: Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: Stan Mon, Sep 28, 2020

Thank you, I. Nagy. As you can see, I've gone "down the rabbit hole" on this and can't find my way back out.


Subject:Re: Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: I.Nagy Fri, Oct 02, 2020

Dear Stan,

Here, I try to bring some light to you down to the rabbit-hole.
If you examine carefully the patterns of kimonos on the two pictures, you will find that they are different. The patterns (crests) on the actors' kimonos are individually designed.
Therefore, the same role of Osono was played by two different actors, on two different stages, and portrayed by two different artists.
At least this is my humble explanation.

With regards,

Subject:Re: Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: Stan Sun, Oct 04, 2020

Dear I. Nagy,

I concur. I noticed the crests and was looking for two artists playing the role in the years up to 1844. Unfortunately, online resources (in English) produced nothing. Thanks for your help.


Subject:Re: Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: Preben Tue, Oct 06, 2020

Also the facial expressions are very different between the images.

Subject:Re: Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: Horst Graebner Mon, Oct 12, 2020

Bandō Tamasaburō I staged the role of Osono in Kanadehon Chūshingura in 1835/08 at the Morita-za (see Waseda inventory number 100-0836).
Onoe Kikugorō III performed Osono in Kanadehon Chushingura in 1833/08 at the Ichimura-za (this print isn’t online, but others from the performance, for example 100-0798).
I coudn’t find any other prints from other performances either with Kikugorō nor Tamasaburō in this role. So the original print is by Kunisada I and the later one is an ireki with face changing by Kuniyoshi.

Subject:Re: Kunhiyoshi/Kunisada Print Mystery
Posted By: Stan Tue, Oct 13, 2020

It looks like you nailed it. As I said, you're my hero.

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