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VJP title
Utamaro print showing


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Torii Kiyomasu I (一代目 鳥居清倍)


Torii Kiyomasu II 1697 or after 1704Torii Kiyomasu I (鳥居清倍) was a leading woodblock-print designer, book illustrator, and painter during the early period of ukiyo-e. He was active circa late 1690s-1718, although some recent research argues for an even shorter working period of around 1704-1714, suggesting that he probably died young. Kiyomasu I might have been a pupil, younger brother, or son of Torii Kiyonobu I, or simply a contemporary who belonged to a different branch of the Torii family. However, none of these scenarios has been confirmed. Complicating matters further, there are three print designs (one in 1715, perhaps reissued in 1718, and two in 1718) with Kiyonobu signatures and Kiyomasu I seals, persuading some scholars that KiyomasuI died around 1718 and that Kiyonobu I finished the works as the titular head of the Torii line of artists. Given all this uncertainty, scholars have tried to distinguish between the often similar works of the two early masters, sometimes concluding that Kiyonobu I's works possessed an expressive vigor and "masculine" quality that was not found in equal measure in Kiyomasu I's oeuvre, who is known more for a refined or less "primitive" approach to print design. However, Kiyonobu I and other early Torii artists were adept at producing works in both modes of kabuki design. In some of his earliest prints, Kiyonobu I worked in a restrained, even elegant manner, whereas in his initial designs, Kiyomasu I tended to produce an energetic or "explosive" style that was every bit as action-packed as Kiyonobu I's famous works. It seems possible, given some tentative dating of a few early works, that Kiyomasu I's portrayals for aragoto ("rough stuff": 荒事) kabuki roles were contemporaneous with or might have slightly preceded similar efforts by Kiyonobu I. Moreover, it could very well be that it is Kiyomasu I more than Kiyonobu I who should be recognized as the early ukiyo-e artist whose works were more often bombastic in style and subject matter.

The rare and large print (ô-ôban 542 x 322 mm) shown above from the Tokyo National Museum portrays Ichikawa Danjûrô I (市川團十郎) in the role of Takenuki Gorô (竹抜き五郎 Soga no Gorô, 曽我の五郎) in a performance of the play Tsuwamono kongen Soga (Origin of the Soga warrior: 兵根元曽我) probably from 5/1697 at the Nakamura Theater, Edo. However, some scholars argue for a date during the Hôei era (1704-1711). It is not only Kiyomasu I's most famous woodcut design, but it is also one of the most celebrated in all of ukiyo-e. Signed Torii-shi Kiyomasu zu (Picture by Torii-family Kiyomasu: 鳥居氏清倍圖), the print features Danjûrô I uprooting a bamboo, meant to convey prodigious, even superhuman strength. The work is hand-colored with red lead and is thus called a tan-e (red-lead print: 丹絵) or entan-e (鉛丹絵). The bravura brush work from Kiyomasu's preliminary drawing has been translated brilliantly into sweeping and curving lines. that taper or zig-zag, evoking what was popularly called at the time the Torii style of hyôtan ashi mimizugaki ("gourd-shaped legs and wriggling-worm lines”: 瓢箪脚蚯蚓描). In a work such as this, Kiyomasu I's approach is just as vigorous as anything Kiyonobu I created, and so it calls for some adjustment to the conventional view of Kiyomasu as a primarily "refined" artist.

Many ukiyo-e artists active in Edo after around 1705 probably knew the paintings of Kaigetsudô Ando, and some works by Kiyomasu might have emerged in response to those models of monumental figure design. The image below left depicts an unnamed high-ranking courtesan adorned with a remarkable uchikake (outer kimono: 打掛) decorated with the roundel crests of leading kabuki actors who specialized in onnagata (women's roles: 女方 or 女形), wakashû-gata (effeminate male roles: 若衆方 or 若衆形), and kasha-gata (old-woman roles: 花車方 or 花車形 or fukeoyama 老女方) during the first decade of the eighteenth century. This is one of many instances demonstrating the entwined relationship of ukiyo-e, kabuki, and pleasure women of the entertainment quarters. The impressive portrayal was published by Igaya Kan'emon (伊賀屋勘右衛門 Bunkidô 文亀堂), whose seal reads Motohama-chô Iga-ya hanmoto (元濱町伊賀屋板本). The large print (ô-ôban, 556 x 263 mm) is signed Torii-shi Kiyomasu zu (Picture by Torii-family Kiyomasu: 鳥居氏清倍圖).

Kiyomasu I continued to produce large works of similar design into the next decade, such as the masterful yakusha-e (actor print: 役者絵) depicting Fujimura Handayû II (藤村半太夫 died 1745) as Oiso no Tora (大磯の虎), the lover of Soga no Jûrô (曾我の十郎), possibly in the play Bandô ichi kotobuki Soga (The Soga brothers: the most auspicious in eastern Japan: 坂東一壽曾我) premiering at the Nakamura Theater in 1/1715. This production was a big hit, staging performances from the second day of the first month until the seventh month — an unusually long duration and virtually unprecedented in kabuki until that time. Kiyomasu's work, again, reveals the influence of the Kaigetsudô artists. It is hand-colored in the conventional tan-e manner, using red-lead and yellow pigments. Handayû's furisode ("swinging sleeve" or long-sleeved kimono: 振袖) is decorated with expressively styled kanji, some of which spell romantic or suggestive words such as hana-arashi (flower storm: 花嵐), nure (love: 濡), and kasa (umbrella: 傘 or 伞), the last suggesting aiaigasa (the iconic "sharing-together umbrella" in lovers' tales: 相合傘). Kiyomasu's print was again published by Igaya Kan'emon (伊賀屋勘右衛門 Bunkidô 文亀堂) using a seal reading the same as on the previous design but with mostly hiragana script (もとはまいげ屋はんもと).

Kiyomasu I courtesan Kiyomasu I Handayu as Oiso no Tora
Torii Kiyomasu I: Courtesan, c. 1705-07
Large ôban (ô-ôban) sumizuri-e, 556 x 263 mm
Pub. by published by Igaya Kan'emon (Bunkidô)
Torii Kiyomasu I: Handayû II as Oiso no Tora, c. 1715
Large ôban (ô-ôban), hand-colored tan-e, 520 x 317 cm
Pub. by published by Igaya Kan'emon (Bunkidô)

Kiyomasu and other artists produced various designs for the aforementioned mega-hit play Bandô ichi kotobuki Soga. The example below is a sheet from an album with (at least) six designs published yet again by Igaya Kan'emon (伊賀屋勘右衛門 Bunkidô 文亀堂) whose seal reads Motohama-chô Iga-ya hanmoto (もとはまいげ屋はんもと). The actor Ichikawa Danjûrô II (市川團十郎) performs as Soga no Gorô (曽我の五郎) and Nakamura Takesaburô I (中村竹三郎) is his lover Kewaizaka no Shôshô (粧坂の少将). The design incorporates a fanciful feature found occasionally in ukiyo-e (especially in eighteenth-century calendar prints), namely, the use of hiragana script to form the outlines of figures. Here, the phonetic characters read Moji komosô (もじこもそう), "Komosô made of characters," which form the robe and hood of the komosô (mendicant monk: 虚無僧), actually Gorô in disguise, who wears a sugegasa (sedge hat: 菅笠) and plays a shakuhachi (wooden end-blown flute: 尺八). The monk's hood also bears the crest of the Ichikawa acting family, called a mimasu (three rice-measuring boxes: 三舛). The same hiragana appear in a small cartouche at the upper right. Overall, the scene is effectively rendered with convincing receding depth, despite the inaccurate single-vanishing-point perspective. As already mentioned, the play was exceedingly popular, so much so that it started a craze for all things komosô, whose images were used with illustrated novels, tobacco pouches, game boards, children's toys, and fans. The association for komosô in Edo was not amused, however, and an official complaint was submitted that required mediation to resolve.

Kiyomasu I komuso soga
Torii Kiyomasu I: Ichikawa Danjûrô II (市川團十郎) as Soga no Gorô (曽我の五郎) and
Nakamura Takesaburô I (中村竹三郎) as Shôshô (少将) in Bandô ichi kotobuki Soga (坂東一壽曾我)
Nakamura Theater (中村の芝居), Edo, 1st to 7th month in 1715
Album sheet, sumizuri-e, large ôban (290 x 402 cm), pub. by Igaya Kan'emon (伊賀屋勘右衛門 Bunkidô 文亀堂)

The following year Kiyomasu portrayed the actor Nakamura Sen'ya (中村千弥 active c. before 1691 until 1728) identified on the large hand-colored tan-e print (ô-ôban, 591 x 311 mm) published by Komatsuya Denshichirô (小松屋伝七郎) as Kyô Shijô kudari Nakamura Sen'ya (Nakamura Sen'ya coming down from Shijô in Kyoto: 京四条下り中村千弥). By convention, relocating from the ancient capital of Kyoto was considered a "descent." Sen'ya had returned to Edo in the fall of 1716 after having spent 17 years acting in Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka region). In 11/1716 he performed the role of Higuchi's wife Tokonatsu (樋口女房常夏) in Mitsudomoe katoku-biraki (Legacy of the three-comma family crest revealed: 三巴家督開) at the Nakamura Theater (中村芝居) in Edo. Here we see an elegant line and balanced composition that has been more closely associated with Kiyomasu I than with Kiyonobu I.

The large (ô-ôban) hand-colored tan-e shown below right, published by Sagami-ya Yohei (相模屋与兵衛), portrays Nakamura Takesaburô I (中村竹三郎 died 1724) in the role of a female itinerant tea vendor. He carries across his shoulders a pole from which hang two wooden cases for displaying tea-ceremony utensils, including teabowls, whisk, brazier, and water jug. The charming composition is typical of Kiyomasu's late works where refinement was an essential element of the design.

Kiyomasu I nakamura senya Kiyomasu I nakamura takesaburo
Torii Kiyomasu I: Nakamura Sen'ya as Tokonatsu in
Mitsudomoe katoku-biraki
, Nakamura-za, 11/1716,
Pub. by Komatsuya Denshichirô, tan-e (ô-ôban)
Torii Kiyomasu I: Nakamura Takesaburô I as an
itinerant tea vendor, c. 1716-18
Pub. by Sagamiya Yohei (相模屋与兵衛), tan-e (ô-ôban)

Below left is a rare Kiyomasu design, published by Sagamiya Yohei (相模屋与兵衛), depicting a variant of the celebrated kusazuri-biki no ba (armor-tugging scene: 草摺引の場), originally a trial of strength between the characters Soga no Gorô (曾我の五郎) and Kobayashi Asahina (小林朝比奈) in Soga mono (Soga plays: 曾我物). Originally, Asahina restrains Gorô from rushing recklessly into their enemy Kudô no Suketsune's (工藤祐経) compound by tugging at the tassets (overlapping jointed metal splints) of his armor. It was a scene sometimes inserted into other, unrelated kabuki plays. It is not certain which of two plays performed in 1717 was depicted here by Kiyomasu, although it might have been Keisei Fuji no takane (A courtesan and the high summit of Mt. Fuji: 傾城富士高根) staged in 2/1717 at the Ichimura Theater (市村の芝居), Edo. If true, the roles would be Soga no Gorô (曾我の五郎) on the right and Sano Jirôzaemon (佐野次郎左衛門) on the left. The scene shows Ichikawa Danzô I (市川團蔵 1684-1740) trying to hurl a boat into the sea while Ôtani Hiroji (大谷廣次 1699-1747) crashes through the side of the vessel to stop him. The agitated lines (the aforementioned hyôtan ashi mimizugaki) are typical of the early Torii artists in their depiction of aragoto acting. Prints such as these were often treated as ephemeral theatrical broadsheets rather than "serious" actor portraits, resulting in rare survival of what must have been many hundreds or even thousands of impressions of each design. Furthermore, while Kiyomasu's style was developing toward a gentler, more refined manner, he nevertheless seems to never have abandoned the "rough stuff" portrayals that were so visually potent for bombastic kabuki scenes.

Finally, the image below right is one of the previously mentioned designs bearing a Kiyomasu seal but a Torii Kiyonobu signature (鳥居清信). The print, published by Komatsuya Denshichirô (小松屋伝七郎) in ô-ôban format (554 x 318 mm), commemorates yet another Soga play, Nanakusa fukki Soga (七種福貴曽我) at the Ichimura Theater (市村の芝居), Edo in 1/1718. In this New Year's production, Sanjô Kantarô II (三条勘太郎) performs as Yaoya Oshichi (八百屋お七) and Ichimura Takenojô II (市村竹之丞) as the koshô (young attendant: 小姓) Kichisaburô (吉三郎). Thus the tale of Oshichi is conflated with the Soga monogatari. The real-life Oshichi was a daughter of the greengrocer Tarobei in Hongô, Edo. In December 1682, she fell in love with Ikuta Shônosuke (or Saemon), a temple page, during a fire at Shôsen-in, the family temple. The next year she attempted arson, thinking she could meet him again if another fire occurred. She was caught by police, brought to trial, and burnt at the stake. The story was adapted in popular fiction, puppet theater, and kabuki, usually turning Oshichi into a heroine who, rather than start a fire, climbs a fire tower to ring an alarm bell to open the city gates in order to save the life of her lover, whom she cannot otherwise reach because of a nightly curfew. Sadly, the penalty for sounding a false fire alarm was death. In the Oshichi print, there is a delicacy of line and a more retrained effect that is distinctly different from Kiyomasu's agitated approach to drawing the figures in his heroic portrayals.

Kiyomasu I 1717 ichimawa danzo and otani hiroji Kiyomasu I 1718 sanjo kantaro and ichimura takenojo
Torii Kiyomasu I: Ichikawa Danzô I and Ôtani Hiroji
in a Soga play, possibly Keisei Fuji no takane 2/1717
Pub. by Sagamiya Yohei, ô-ôban (526 x 314 mm)
Torii Kiyomasu I: Sanjô Kantarô II & Ichimura Takenojô II
in Nanakusa fukki Soga, Ichimura-za, 1/1718
Pub. by Komatsuya, ô-ôban (554 x 318 mm)


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