Torii Kiyohiro
Nakamura Kumetarō II as Yorikaze and Ichimura Kamezō I as Ominaeshi Daibunosuke

Signed: Torii Kiyohiro hitsu; Publisher’s seal: Sakaiya hanmoto; hosoban, 29.7 x 14.1 cm; benizuri-e

In a scene from the kabuki play premiered in 1755, Kan Shōjō momiji no shitone, Nakamura Kumetarō is sitting in front of a fence, behind which a large pine tree can be seen. In the role of Yorikaze, he has the onnagata Ichimura Kamezō I, in the role of Ominaeshi, on his lap. A haiku alludes to the double suicide (shinjū) of the lovers: “The dream shattered / the temple bell / like the stormy evening wind.”

Geyger, inv.no.16381 (KG p.122 / KGE p.130)

Torii Kiyohiro (active 1737-1766): as with Kiyomitsu, Kiyohiro belongs exclusively to the period of the benizuri-e, and grace and refinement are the hallmarks of his work. Yet his works are distinguished from those of his contemporaries by the greater range of variation in his contours, which allows him to be identified as an absolutely independent talent. Since nothing about his life has been recorded, we can get to know him only through his works, which rank among the masterpieces of his time.

In front of a fence, behind which there is a pine tree, kneels the actor Ichimura, Kamezô I in the role of Yorikaze. His partner is the onnagata actor Makamura, Kumetarô in the role of Ominaeshi. The female impersonator, his head declined, sits on the raised knee of Kamezô. With a melancholic gesture he holds up his right hand hidden under his sleeve. The player of Yorikaze looks up at him with his mouth turning down at the corners. On the green background of his kimono bell-flowers in beni red contrast with the sparrows on the black uchikake with green clouds. Ominaeshi’s kimono is adorned with fans and maple leaves. The simplified style of the first two-colour prints can be seen in the ornamentation and in the folded fans on the kimono. Ominaeshi’s robe cuts across the dark-coloured area of Yorikaze’s clothing. This gives the coloured areas an abstract quality, so that at first glance one cannot decipher their real figurative nature. In the upper part of the leaf there is a haiku in big characters. The added phonetic reading of the words in katakana syllabic script is unusual.

Yume wo yabure
Interrupting the dream-
kane wa
the temple bells-
yogoto no
a storm over the meadow.
nowaki kana

This Kabuki play must have been inspired by the Nô play Ominaeshi. A couple has sworn to be true to each other forever. But the man abandons the girl and is unfaithful to her. She searches for him, and on finding him, throws herself into the river. He buries her. A wonderful flower grows out of her grave. But the more he tries to approach the flower, the more it retreats. At this, he also ends his life. The poetic content of the Nô was transposed to the world of Kabuki. Ominaeshi (bot. patrinia Scabiosaefolia) is one of the aki-no-nana-kusa (“Seven Autumn Grasses”). The characters used for its literal reading give to the Ominaeshi plant the additional meaning “Flower of Courtesan” (jorôhana). The tragic content of the play, which certainly belonged to the group of shinjû (“double suicide out of love”) plays, is also reflected in the added haiku.

The actor of Yorikaze is better known by the name Uzaemon IX. He was the son of Ichimura, Uzaemon VIII (Takenojô) from the dynasty of the theatre directors of the Ichimura-za. Uzaemon IX (1724-1786) used the name Kamezô, as in this leaf, from 1745-1762. From 1755 he was the zashu (theatre director) of his family theatre. He is known as an experienced actor and dancer of male roles.

The female impersonator Nakamura, Kumetarô (1724-1777) was the son of a well-known dancer, Arashi, Monjûrô, who in his turn was a pupil of Arashi (“Storm Wind”), San’emon I (1635-1690), the popular aragoto performer in the Genroku Period. From 1735 the onnagata of our print played under the name Nakamura, Kumetarô. On his arrival in Edo (Tôkyô) in 1748, he had already been accorded a high position in the actors’ hierarchy by the theatre critics. In 1755 Kumetarô returned to Kyôto. In 1774 he took tonsure and died in 1777. Since the woodblock master Kiyohiro was first active in the 1750s, and Kumetarô left Edo in 1755, the print reproduced here must have been created in this period.