Katsukawa Shunkō
Matsumoto Kōshirō IV as Nitta Yoshioki

Signed: Shunkō ga; hosoban, 31.0 x 15.0 cm; benizuri-e with karazuri

As a medieval knight wearing armour over a white ceremonial garment, the actor Matsumoto Kōshirō IV floats as a ghost on a black cloud. He is playing the warrior Nitta Yoshioki, who was drowned in Rokugō River in 1358. After his death he was honoured as the Shinto deity Nitta-daimyōjin. This scene is from the drama Hōnō Nitta Daimyōjin (“Sacrificial Offerings to Daimyōjin Nitta”), which premiered at Morita-za in the autumn of 1777.

Provenance: A. Lemp (Zurich, June 1963)
Riese Collection #46

The foreboding black cloud suggests the story of Yorimasa and the slaying of the fabulous monster, the nue, which was attacking the court in Kyōto, but the way the cloud rises, carrying the archer through the air is supernatural, and the warrior’s white lower garment implies that he has died and is returning to the earth as a vengeful ghost.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 41.