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kappazuri (stencil print) on black washi paper, with highlights in gold, silver and brass pigment, signed in the composition in blue pigment Binnie, signed again and numbered in red crayon at lower margin Paul Binnie, 21/80, followed by artist’s seal Bin-ni and date seal Heisei roku-nen (Heisei 6 )
dai oban tate-e 18 3/8 by 12 1/2 in., 46.7 by 31.6 cm
This composition is the second print from the series Kabuki juhachiban (The Famous 18 Plays) and depicts a character from Kenuki (The Tweezers), the third act of the five act drama Narukami Fudo Kitayama Zakura (Priest Narukami and the Rain Dragon). The play is set in the midst of a drought during the reign of Emperor Yozei (reigned from 876-884). A poem by the famous poetess Ono no Komachi (825-900) that can induce rain has gone missing from the mansion of Lord Ono no Harumichi. Though at first many suspect the lord’s son Harukaze and a senior retainer Hata no Minbu stole the missing poem, it is in fact Yatsurugi Genba, Harumichi’s chief retainer, who is responsible for the poem’s disappearance. Genba, in fact, is trying to overthrow the family.
Fortunately for Harumichi, Lord Bun’ya no Toyohide, the fiancee of his daughter Nishiki-no-Mae, has dispatched his best retainer Kumedera Danjo to investigate. Danjo’s appearance is prompted not only by the missing poem but by another strange event: Nishiki-no-Mae’s hair is inexplicably standing on ends, to everyone’s consternation. While interviewing her, Danjo begins to pluck his beard with a giant pair of tweezers. When he puts the tweezers down, they begins to float in mid-air, suggesting to Danjo that there is a magnet hidden in the ceiling. He removes an iron ornament from her head, which fixes her hair, and then pokes the ceiling with a spear until a ruffian with the giant magnet falls to the floor. In a futile attempt to prevent his own incrimination, Genba kills the man on the spot. Danjo, now realizing it is Genba behind these bizarre events, kills Genba and restores peace and order to Harumichi’s mansion.
Arendie and Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 144-147
Paul Binnie: A Dialogue with the Past – The First 100 Japanese Prints, 2007, p. 54, no. 12