Shunkōsai Hokushū (春好斎北洲) (artist ca 1808 – 1832)
Ichikawa Ebijūrō I as the servant Ranpei in the play Yamatogana Ariwara Keizu (倭仮名在原系図) - a mitate
10.25 in x 14.5 in (Overall dimensions) Japanese color woodblock print
Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
Publishers: Honya Seishichi (Marks 123 - seal 25-527) and Yamaichi (Marks U438 - seal 25-477)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Library of Congress
Hankyu Culture Foundation
Lyon Collection - Kunisada triptych showing a figure coming through a wall
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art The Osaka actor, Ichikawa Ebijūrō, bursting through a wall with his sword drawn. The liberal use of metallic inks would indicate that this is from a deluxe edition.
"The five-act play Yamatogana Ariwara Keizu (Ariwara’s syllabic genealogy: 倭仮名在原系図) was written for the puppet theater (ningyô jôruri, 人形淨瑠璃 or Bunraku, 文楽), premiering in the twelfth lunar month of 1752 in Osaka at the Toyotake-za. It was adapted by kabuki in the first lunar month of 1753 at the Minamigawa no Shibai in Kyoto. The fourth act appears to be the sole surviving section and is commonly called Ranpei monogurui (Ranpei's madness: 蘭平物狂)."
The complicated plot for Act IV involves an attempt to assassinate Lord Ariwara no Yukihira and multiple double identities. Formerly exiled to the island of Suma, Yukihira fell in love with the shiokumi (salt-scooping: 潮汲み or 汐汲み) girl Matsukaze ("Wind in the Pines: 松風). Now back in Kyoto, Yukihira sends his servant Ranpei to fetch her. Matsukaze has died, however, so Ranpei returns with a look-alike beauty named Oriku. When an enemy of Yukihira's escapes his confinement, Yukihira sends Ranpei's son Shigezô in pursuit. Ranpei's tries to substitute himself, but Yukihira refuses, citing his strange madness. In reality, however, Ranpei is pretending to be prone to madness as a subterfuge to get close to and kill Yukihira. Meanwhile, the reunion of "Matsukaze" (Oriku) and Yukihira goes poorly. At one point he asks her to play the koto... and the music soothes him into dozing. Oriku brings in her husband Yomosaku (who gained access pretending to be Matsukaze's brother), who attempts to slay Yukihira, but the lord subdues him. Then Ranpei returns with his son, who has the severed head of the fugitive. After questioning, Yomosaku admits to seeking revenge because he is the son of a man slain by Yukihira. The lord gives him one chance to live, by having him fight a duel with Ranpei (who objects, of course, citing his "madness"). As it happens, what precipitates Ranpei's madness is any sword drawn from its scabbard. During the fight, the two combatants recognize each other's swords, indicating that they are brothers. They reunite and vow to kill Yukihira. Finally, Ranpei is defeated in his quest and is told that the fugitive decapitated by his son was actually his real brother, Yoshizumi, and that Yomosaku is not his brother but a warrior serving Yukihira. When Ranpei attempts suicide, he is stopped by Yomosaku, who persuades Ranpei to forsake his conspiracy and become a monk."
"There are apparently no records in the kabuki annals identifying a performance for Ebijûrô I in this role at this time; thus, this print is typically considered a mitate-e (analogue picture: 見立絵), that is, in this instance, a design portraying an actor in a role and play not linked with a known performance."
The text on the print is signed Shinshō (新升), one of Ebijūrō I's poetry names. It reads:
[signed and sealed] 新升
Another description of this play can be found at http://www.kabuki21.com/rampei_monogurui.php.
Kabuki21 notes: "The play 'Yamatogana Ariwara Keizu' was originally made up of 5 acts. The fourth act is the sole surviving act and is commonly called 'Rampei Monogurui' ('Rampei's madness') [蘭平物狂]."
1) In Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata yakusha-e shūsei (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints), vol. 1, Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka, 1997, no. 110.
2) In Kitagawa, Bosuton bijutsukan shozō Kamigata-e mokuroku (Kansai daigaku, 2007), p. 91
Ichikawa Ebijūrō I (初代市川鰕十郎 9/1815 to 7/1827) (actor)
Honya Seishichi (本屋清七) (publisher)
Kyōto-Osaka prints (kamigata-e - 上方絵) (genre)
actor prints (yakusha-e - 役者絵) (genre)
mitate-e (見立て絵) (author)