Tōshūsai Sharaku
Morita Kanya VIII as Yura Hyōgonosuke Nobutada
1794, 8th month

Signed: Tōshūsai Sharaku ga; Publisher’s logo (Tsutaya Jūsaburō); censor’s seal: kiwame; hoso-ban, 31.4 x 14.2 cm; nishiki-e

With a worried expression, Morita Kanya VIII poses in ceremonial garb. In his belt he is carrying two swords and a pillbox (inrō). Kanya is playing Yura Hyōgonosuke in the play Shinrei Yaguchi no watashi (“Miracle at Yaguchi Ferry”), which premiered in 1794. Sharaku’s actors’ portraits in hosoban format are far less common than his ōkubi-e in ōban format on mica ground. In addition to this print only three others are known to exist.

R. G. Sawers, London (October 1967); Doucet
Riese Collection #95

Hyōgonosuke was the retainer of a young lord of the Nitta clan, Yoshioki, who left him to look after his family and estates while he was battling the Ashikaga general, Takauji. During a battle at the ferry of Yaguchi, Yoshioki was killed. Suzuki suggests that this print is from a group of four showing Hyōgonosuke standing between his wife, Minato, and Yoshioki’s wife, Tsukuba Gozen, discussing the merits of placation or revenge with Minase Rokurō Munezumi, another retainer of Yoshioki. Hyōgonosuke advocates dissembling: seeming to sue for peace, while awaiting an opportunity for vengeance.

Sharaku’s hosoban portraits of actors are far rarer than his mica ground heads. Besides this impression, only three others seem to be known: the Mutiaux impression reproduced in Vignier and Inada and rephotographed by Rumpf and Noguchi, the Chicago impression reproduced by Henderson and Ledoux (the least trimmed impression known), the Mizura impression reproduced by Suzuki, and the damaged Vever impression (Sotheby’s, London, 26 March 1974, no. 257).

Reproduced in Riese, Asiatische Studien, p. 107, no. 29.