Kuniyoshi 國芳: Scene from a Ghost Story: The Okazaki Cat Demon --Onoe Kikugorō III as Usugomo with the cat-ghost Okabe

Date 1847
Technique Woodblock Print
Price $7,800.00
Exhibitor Egenolf Gallery Japanese Prints
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Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi 國芳 (1797-1861)
Title: Scene from a Ghost Story: The Okazaki Cat Demon 昔ばなしの戯猫又をへて古寺に怪をなす図--Onoe Kikugorō III as Usugomo with the cat-ghost Okabe    
Date: 1847

A terrifying spectral cat, grey as a ghost, has torn through the reed blinds in with its enormous claws and fixed is glare on the central figure, Inabanosuke. He sits calmly in the center, as he is protected from the apparition by the Buddhist text that he holds in his right hand. We see a dream-bubble connection between the ghost cat and the two figures at right. These two women are actually the monster cat in disguise; one is the old evil woman who lives at this temple in Okazaki and next to her is a woman killed by the monster, a local woman named Okura whose body has been possessed. Both characters would have been played by the same actor in this special program, as Kikugoro was renowned for his ability to perform hayagawari, quick-changes, which must have thrilled the audience. At left is Teranishi Kenshin, holding a sedge woven hat under his arm, as he was dressed as a komuso for incognito travel.

With the title on the left sheet at the upper left corner, Mukashi banashi no tawamure nekomata wo hete koji ni kai wo nasu zu and the actors' roles identified from the left, Teranishi Kanshin and Inabanosuke.

The actor Sawamura Sojuro V (1802-1853) is in the role of Teranishi Kanshin, the actor Ichimura Uzaemon XII (1812-1851) is in the role of Inabanosuke, and the actor Onoe Kikugoro III (1784-1849) is in the role of Usugomo with the ghost cat of Okazaki on the right. The print depicts a scene from the play, Onoe Kikugoro ishidai banashi (The Lifetime of Onoe Kikugoro III) at Ichimura-za Theater.

Onoe Kikugoro III entered retirement in September 1847 after this final performance at the Ichimura theatre. After this performance he took on the name Kikuya Manbei, and ran a mochi shop until he returned to the theater for a few months before his death in 1848.

Condition: Very good impression, color and condition. Some trimming and areas of rubbing.
Publisher: Wakau

Literature: See “Staging the Supernatural” (Smithsonian, 2023) by Brooks and Felton, page 72-73, number 20 and frontispiece. See “YOKAI: Strange Beasts & Weird Spectres: 100 Japanese Triptychs” (2018), page 13. Nagoya City Mus., Takaki Shigeru Ukiyo-e Collection (2001), #17; Dai yôkai ten (2000), #101. See MFA 11.27023-5. See Marks “Japanese Yokai and Other Supernatural Beings”, page 25. Museum of Fine Arts, The Raymond A. Bidwell Collection of Prints by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1968, p. 62, no. 41; Robert Schaap, Heroes and Ghosts: Japanese Prints by Kuniyoshi, 1797-1861, 1998, p. 154, no. 162; Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org), accession no. JP1563; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (collections.mfa.org), accession no. 49.1246; The Museum of Fine Arts , Houston (mfah.org), accession no. 2012.71.A-.C; Waseda University Library (archive.waseda.jp), accession no. 100-8880.

Signature: Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi ga     Size: Oban triptych (approx 36 x 74 cm)