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VJP title
Utamaro print showing


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Utagawa Kagematsu (歌川景松)


Utagawa Kagematsu (歌川景松 act. c. 1830s–40s) is one of many artists from Kamigata (Osaka-Kyoto region) for whom we have very little information. He might have been a pupil of Gokotei Sadakage (五湖貞景) or Sadamasu I (貞升 later Kunimasu 國升). Possibly he was the same artist as the Edo print designer also named Utagawa Kagematsu. An alternate reading of his geimei could be "Keishô" (景松), but it is nearly always given as "Kagematsu" in the literature. Regardless, his surviving prints are scarce, perhaps fewer than ten designs, although there must have been more during his lifetime. These are all yakusha-e (actor prints: 役者会絵) except for a single known tiny mameban sheet called Jûro banbashi (Ten-road bridge: 十路盤橋) from a landscape series in the style of Utagawa Hiroshige I titled Naniwa junikei no uchi (Set of twelve views of Osaka: 浪花十二景之内).

Kagematsu: Onoe Baikô III (尾上梅幸) as Furudera no neko kaii (Demon cat in the old temple: 古寺ノ猫怪異) in
Ume no haru gojûsan tsugi (Spring plums along the fifty-three stations: 梅初春五十三駅)
Kado Theater, Osaka, 4/1841,
Block carver: hori Kinji (ホリ金次); Printer: suri Iida (スリ飯田)
Woodblock print, ôban; published by Wataya Kihei (Ki, 木)

The kabuki play Ume no haru [hatsuharu] gojûsan tsugi (Plums in spring and the fifty-three stations: 梅初春五十三駅) premiered in 1835 as an adaptation of the 1827 play Hitori tabi gojûsan tsugi (Traveling alone along the 53 stations: 独道中五十三駅) by the playwright Tsuruya Nanboku IV (1755-1829), creator of the best known kaidan mono (ghost plays: 怪談物). Given the title, audiences might have expected a version of Jippensha Ikku's (十返舎一九, 1765–1831) best-selling comic novel Tôkaidôchû Hizakurige (東海道中膝栗毛, popularly known as Shank's Mare), but what they got instead was a spectacle of frightening scenes, along with erotic interplay and comic spoofing of Nanboku's favorite themes. Ume no haru, like its predecessor, included a monstrous demon cat (bakeneko or "changed cat": 化け猫), but also added a renegade priest who masters rat magic and a thief named Nezumi Kozô ("Kid Rat"). With these elements, the play qualified as a type of drama called neko sôdô mono (cat-family dispute plays: 猫騒動物). The playwrights also added story lines from other kabuki and bunraku (puppet theater: 文楽) plots, transforming the famous greengrocer's daughter Oshichi into Sayoginu Oshichi and bringing in the dashing young samurai Shirai [Hirai 平井] Gonpachi (白井権八) and his lover, the courtesan Komurasaki (小紫). With such a roster of fanciful characters and special effects (keren: "stunts" 外連), Ume no haru gojûsan tsugi became a long-running hit and inspired other plays featuring spectacular scenic effects. Kagematsu's design for this play, shown above, is arguably his finest known work. It is signed Goryûtei Kagematsu ga (Drawn by Goryûtei Kagematsu: 五流亭景松画)

Kagematsu: Onoe Tamizô II (尾上多見蔵) as yakko [servant] Ranpei (奴蘭平) in
Saiwai Ariwara keizu (福在原系圖), Horie Ichinokawa Theater, 1/1841
Woodblock print, ôban; published by Wataki-han

The print shown immediately above was made to commemorate an Onagori kyôgen (Farewell play: 御名残り狂言), a term used for performances given by kabuki actors during the ninth and tenth months, when they gave their final performances in each regular theatrical year, as some actors prepared to go on tour or relocate to a different city for a new season, or return to their places of origin in other areas. In this instance, Onoe Tamizô II relocated to Edo where he performed from 5/1841 until 10/1843, when he returned to Osaka. Here, Tamizô performs in a drama featuring, among others, the roles of Matsukaze, Ariwara no Yukihira, and Ranpei. Ariwara, who failed to protect an imperial heirloom sword, was exiled to the shores of Suma, where he fell in love with the salt-gathering diver Matsukaze. Eventually, Ariwara is allowed to return to his palace in Kyoto. Ariwara's servant, Ranpei, who displays signs of madness, becomes involved in stealing the imperial treasure-sword, but is ultimately found out and captured. He prepares to commit suicide, but is spared after being persuaded to become a monk. The print is signed "Ukiyo-e-shi Naniwa Utagawa Kagematsu fude" ("Painted by the Osaka ukiyo-e master Utagawa Kagematsu: 浮世絵師浪華歌川景松筆). In Kagematsu's design, Tamizô may be performing a kyôran no mai ("dance of madness": 狂乱の舞) as he holds Ariwara's imperial robe and tall eboshi (court hat: 烏帽子), symbols of Ariwara's rank that he left in Suma upon returning from exile, breaking Matsukaze's heart and bringing on her own madness.

Utagawa Kagematsu's names and signatures

Utagawa (歌川)

Art names (geimei):
Kagematsu (景松)
Kagehide (景秀) suggested by Keyes but read as "Kagematsu" by Matsudaira (1998, vol. III); see image of Ranpei above

Art pseudonyms ():
Ippôsai (一峯齋)
Goryûtei (五流亭)

© 2021 by John Fiorillo


  • Keyes, R. and Mizushima, K.: Theatrical World of Osaka Prints. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973, p. 267.
  • Hendrick Lühl: Schätze der Kamigata: Japanische Farbenholzschnitte aus Osaka, 1780-1880 (Treasures of Osaka: Japanese Color Prints from Osaka, 1780-1880). Musee National d'Histoire et d'Art Luxembourg, 2013, p. 153, no. 326.
  • Matsudaira, Susumu: Zenki Kamigata-e (Kamigata Prints in the Former Period, 前期上方絵 Part I, Vol. 4). Ed. by Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, Waseda University: (Waseda Daigaku Tsubouchi Hakase Kinen Engeki Hakubutsukan-hen: 早稲田大学坪内博士記念演劇博物館編)]. Tokyo: Waseda University, 1995, nos. 609-610.
  • Matsudaira, Susumu: Kamigata yakusha-e shûsei (Collection of Kamigata actor prints), Vol. III. Osaka: Ikeda Bunko, 1998, pp. 49, 149, 188, nos. 205-208.
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