Kitagawa Utamaro
Komurasaki of Miuraya and Shirai Gonpachi

Signed: Utamaro hitsu; Publisher’s seal: Mura (Murataya Jirōbei); hashira-e, 62.3 x 13.0 cm; nishiki-e with kimedashi and shōmenzuri

From the series Jōruri tsukushi portraying celebrated lovers in Kabuki plays Before parting, the beautiful Komurasaki looks up desperately at her lover, the rōnin Shirai Gonpachi, who was sought by the police for robbery and murder, caught, and finally executed. The pair of mandarin ducks on her black cloak stands for their unending love. Like most prints of this type, this hashira-e shows signs of wear and tear.

Sir Frank Swettenham; H. L. Foster; Janette Ostier, Paris (February 1966)
Riese Collection #72

Shirai Gonpachi was a rōnin, or a masterless samurai, from the province in Inaba who was in love with a courtesan in the Yoshiwara named Komurasaki. In 1679, Gonpachi, who had become an outlaw, was captured, convicted of theft and murder, and executed. Komurasaki, feeling the life was not worth living without her lover, made her way to his grave and committed suicide.
Utamaro’s print shows the couple in a happier moment. Gonpachi seems to be pulling on his robe and preparing to depart from the Yoshiwara early in the morning. Komurasaki bears on her sleeve a design of oshidori, Mandarin ducks, an emblem of fidelity.
Utamaro designed al least six other wide pillar prints of celebrated lovers. Like most pillar prints, this impression shows signs of mounting and use.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 60a.
Cent estampes japonaises, Galerie Janette Ostier, no. 45.