|KEY WORD : art history / paintings|
pictorial subject taken from KANJINCHOU (The Subscription List), perhaps
the best-loved *kabuki 歌舞伎
play. One of the best eighteen kabuki plays *Kabuki
Juuhachiban 歌舞伎十八番, the play was performed first in 1840 by Ichikawa
Danjuurou 7 七代市川団十郎 who adapted it from the *nou
能 play ATAKA 安宅. The plot involves Minamoto no *Yoshitsune 源義経 (1159-89),
his mistress, his loyal follower *Benkei 弁慶, and four other retainers, who disguise
themselves as itinerant monks in order to escape from Ataka and pass through its
barrier. To divert suspicion Yoshitsune dresses as a lowly porter, but the guards
become suspicious of the "monks" and their effeminate porter. Fearing identification,
Benkei acting in the ultimate best interests of this lord, beats Yoshitsune with
a staff. Impressed by this display, the officials allow the group to pass. Benkei celebrates with a wild joyful dance. The theme is illustrated in warrior pictures *musha-e 武者絵, but is best
known in *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 prints.
Illustrations, typically in triptych, usually show Benkei wearing formal nou
costume and the distinctive small cap of a mountain priest yamabushi 山伏
with its immediately recognizable pompom tassels, holding the list of the temple's
contributors kanjinchou, as he is questioned by the official Togashi 富樫.
Behind him Yoshitsune hides his face with a bamboo hat. There are notable prints
by Utagawa Toyokuni 3 三代歌川豊国 (1786-1865) and Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川国芳 (1797-1861).
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