Sugawara no Michizane and the Secrets of Calligraphy: Bandō Mitsugorō IV as Fujiwara Shihei and Seki Sanjūrō III as UmeōmaruArtist(s)Utagawa Kuniyoshi Artist NationalityJapanese (culture or style)Object Creation Date1850Medium & Supportwoodblock print on paperDimensions
14 3/4 in x 10 1/4 in (37.47 cm x 26.04 cm)Credit LineGift of Sharlynn and Andrew Circo, in memory of Sotokichi KatsuizumiSubject matter
The play Sugawara no Michizane and the Secrets of Calligraphy
first premiered in 1746 as a puppet play. It was adapted the next month for kabuki and remains one of the most famous and frequently performed in the kabuki repertoire. The narrative is based on the life of the famous scholar Sugawara no Michizane (845-903) who was exiled to Kyushu after being accused of treason. The scene depicted in this print, “Kurumabiki
” or “Struggle for the Carriage”, shows the triplets Matsuomaru, Sakuramaru, and Umeomaru, and the villain of the play, Shihei. The scene’s tension of divided loyalties between the brothers and the conflicts between their emotions and their obligations is a major theme of this play. It is also representative of many plays written at the time. The use of triplets was inspired by the birth of triplets in Osaka which had caused a sensation, and each of the three is named for a tree. In this print, Umeomaru (ume=
plum) is identifiable by the plum blossoms on his robe.
Bandō Mitsugoro IV was also known as Morita Kanya. He was born in 1802 and active from childhood until his death in 1863.
Seki Sanjūrō III was born in 1805 and began acting in the late 1810s. He died in 1871.Physical Description
In this print, a grey-robed man with unbound hair looms over a warrior who is half-kneeling on the ground. The warrior’s robes are patterned with plum blossoms, and he carries several swords. Behind him, a wheel and bamboo mat are visible in disarray.
This is the center panel of a tryptich (with 2011/2.199.1 and 2011/2.199.3).
Inscriptions: Fujiwara Shihei; Umeomaru; Kuniyoshi ga (Artist's signature); San (Publisher's seal); Mera, Murata (Censors' seal)
Primary Object ClassificationPrintCollection AreaAsianRights
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