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signed Kuniteru hitsu with artist’s Toshidama seal, combined censor and date seal U-shichi, aratame (year of the hare , 7th lunar month, examined), and publisher’s seal unread
oban tate-e triptych 14 1/8 by 28 7/8 in., 35.8 by 73.5 cm
The onnagata Iwai Shijaku II (Iwai Hanshiro VIII, 1829-1882) is in the role of Shizuka, and actor Nakamura Shikan IV (1839-1899) is in the role of Fox (Kitsune) Tadanobu. Though the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, identifies in related compositions this kabuki play as Ichinomori Kujira no Oyose, the title cartouche names it Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees (Yoshitsune senbon zakura), which is also the play most commonly associated with these characters.
Notably, there were two Tadanobus in Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees: the human, Sato Tadanobu, was a lieutenant of the legendary general Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159-1189) who was tasked with protecting Yoshitune’s lover, Shizuka, from the agents of the evil Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199); the second, Kitsune Tadanobu, was a fox disguised as Sato who desired to reclaim a drum in Shizuka’s possession that had been made from his parents’ hides and could, when played, ressurect their spirits. In this composition, the drum rests beside a cherry tree, atop armor given to Sato Tadanobu by Yoshitsune. As it happens, Sato Tadanobu falls ill and never defends Shizuka. Without her knowing, it is the fox spirit who, attracted by the sound of her drum, had followed the beauty and kept her safe on her journey to rejoin her lover.
Arendie and Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 166-177 (re: story)