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signed Shunsen with artist’s red maple leaf seal, publisher’s seal Watanabe (Watanabe Shozaburo), ca. 1951
dai oban tate-e 15 3/4 by 10 5/8 in., 40 by 27 cm
The actor Nakamura Kanzaburo XVII (1909-1988) is in the role of the tobacconist Genshichi from the play Komochi Yamanba (The Mountain Witch Mother). Genshichi is a tobacco peddler who is invited to the palace of Iwakamura no Kanefuyu and soon finds himself embroiled in palace intrigue. He successfully prevents the abduction of a princess by insisting the would-be kidnapper smoke tobacco to excess while the princess safely steals away. Genshichi is also a talented singer and shamisen player, and provides the audience a reprieve from the action with frequent musical interludes.
Later in the play, Genshichi is revealed to be Tokiyuki, the estranged husband of the beautiful Yamanba no Yaegiri. On the pretext of avenging his father’s death, Tokiyuki abandoned his wife. However, as is clear by his current occupation, Genshichi has long ago abandoned that intention, and instead has been living a life of careless adventure while Yaegiri was forced to work in the pleasure quarters. When they meet in the following act, she is furious to see him in such a capacity and insists that he commit seppuku.
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Shunsen Natori Exhibition Catalogue, Kushigata, 1991, no. 61
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 49, cat. no. 60
Samuel L. Leiter, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theater, 2014, p. 660 (re: play)