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The Heroine Koharu in The Love Suicides of Amijima from Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu

Kikuchi Keigetsu (1879-1955)

Japanese Color Woodblock Print 

The Heroine Koharu in The Love Suicides of Amijima from Woodblock Print Supplements

to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu

by Kikuchi Keigetsu, 1922-1923


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IHL Cat. #47 and IHL Cat. #1114

About This Print

Two impressions, one with the printer's and carver's names impressed on the bottom margin, of the heroine Koharu from the eighteen print set Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsupublished from 1922 to 1923 as part of the celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of the death of Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1623-1724), perhaps the greatest dramatist in the history of the Japanese theater. Each design illustrates a scene or character from one of Chikamatsu’s famous works.  For more details on this series go to Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu.

Note the use of metallic silver ink, most notably in the obi (see detail below) and hair bow. 

The Story of Koharu, the Heroine in "Shinjûten no amijima" by Chikamatsu Monzaemon

Source: Traditional Japanese Theater: An Anthology of Plays, Karen Brazell, Columbia University Press, 1998, p. 333-334

Usually considered Chikamatsu's masterpiece, The Love Suicides at Amijima is an excellent example of plays depicting love suicides, a subject prohibited less than two years after the play premiered on January 3, 1721.  Amijima was based on a real incident, a pair of lovers who killed themselves on the Amijima Diacho Temple grounds in Osaka on November 13, 1720.  The puppet play opened not quite two months later.  In Amijima, Chikamatsu goes well beyond simply staging a current event.  The play explores the intricacies of a love triangle by treating the wife, Osan, as a major character.  The entangling web of interactions between the wife and the courtesan, Koharu, complicates the plot and adds new depths to a familiar story (which ends in the double suicide of Koharu and her lover, Jihei.)  

Many later versions of this play were written for both the puppet and the kabuki stage.

Print Details

 IHL Catalog  #47, #1114
 Title or Description  The Heroine Koharu in The Love Suicides of Amijima
 Shinjū ten no amijima no Koharu 「心中天の網島」の小春
 Series  Woodblock Print Supplements to the Complete Works of Chikamatsu
 Dai Chikamatsu zenshu furoku mokuhan 大近松全集 付録木版
 Artist
 Kikuchi Keigetsu (1879-1955 )
 Signature
unread
 Seal  unread red artist's seal
 Publication Date  between 1922-1923
 Edition  likely first editions, but the number of editions issued is unknown
 Publisher  Dai Chikamatsu zenshū kankōkai 大近松全集刊行会 (the Complete Work of Chikamatsu Publishing Association)
 Carver  Yamagishi Kazue (1893-1996) - 山岸主計 彫刻 as impressed on the bottom margin of print #1114 as shown below

 Printer Nishimura Kumakichi (b. 1862; act. c. 1911-1947) 西村熊吉 手摺 as impressed on the bottom margin of print #1114 as shown above
 Impression  excellent
 Colors  excellent
 Condition  excellent - some apparent oxidation of pigment on hands and face
 Miscellaneous  all prints from this series printed on a light tan-colored paper
 Genre  shin hanga (new prints)
 Format  dai-oban
 H x W Paper  IHL Cat. #47: 17 x 11 3/8 in. (43.2 x 28.9 cm)
 IHL Cat. #1114: 16 7/8 x 11 3/16 (42.9
 H x W Image  IHL Cat. #47 and #1114: 15 1/2 x 11 in. (39.4 x 27.9 cm) 
 Collections This Print  The Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum of Waseda University 201-0394
 Reference Literature  The Female Image: 20th Century Prints of Japanese Beauties, Amy Riegle Newland and Hamanaka Shinji, Abe Publishing Ltd and Hotei Publishing, 2000, p. 94, pl. 121

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