Artist: Shunbaisai Hokuei (春梅斎北英)

Print: Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Ju-unryū Kosonshō (入雲龍公孫勝) from 108 Heroes of the Theater Suikoden (Shibai Suikoden Hykuhachinin no uchi - 戯場水滸伝百八人之内)

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Dates: 1835,created
Dimensions: 9.8 in,14.75 in,Overall dimensions

Signed: Shunbaisai Hokuei ga
Publisher: Kinkadō Konishi (Marks 242 - seal 24-088)

Related links: Lyon (complete tetraptych);Metropolitan Museum of Art; Hankyu Culture Foundation; Adachi Museum of Art - all four panels;

Physical description:

This is the second panel from a tetraptych.

An acclaimed masterpiece of Osaka printmaking, its detailed landscape setting provides a grand panoramic of the kabuki play, Shibau suikoden Hyakuhachinin no uchi (108 Heroes of the Theatre Suikoden), performed in the 11th month of 1835 in Osaka. In this pristine example is Nakamura Utaemon III (1778-1838) as Ju-unryū Kosonshō.

Tales of the Chinese legendary “Suikoden” (water margin) outlaws and their adventures were easily adapted to exciting dramas for the kabuki stage. In this color woodcut Hokuei captured a particular performance, but other print artists (such as Kuniyoshi in this exhibition) simply illustrated the well-known stories from their own imaginations.

The artist Hokuei was a pupil of Hokushū, whose portrait style greatly influenced Hokuei’s in characteristic bulging eyes and large ovoid jaws. Hokuei was a pioneer in applying luxury surimono effects to actor portrait woodcuts, such as precious metals and deep embossing. This deluxe example is part of a set which required no less than three master carvers and two printers to accomplish. Hokuei is known to have designed more than 250 compositions including some recognized as the most technically complex ukiyo-e prints ever produced.


Illustrated in 1) Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata yakusha-e shūsei (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints), vol. 2, Osaka, 1998, No. 341.

2) The full compositon in color in Masterpieces of Japanese Prints: The European Collections - Ukiyo-e from the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kodansha International, 1991, pp. 130-31.