Torii Kiyonobu II (about 1760)
'Kabuki Scene of a Young Hero Battling with Two Warriors'
Benizuri-e (limited colour woodblock print)
Signature: Torii Kiyonobu hitsu
Museum no. E.1323-1922
This print is a benizuri-e or 'red-printed picture', so called because the predominant colour, along with green, is red. Benizuri-e prints were early experiments in colour printing. This print has been created using three woodblocks, one inked with black, one with red and one with green.
The arrangement of the colours within the print was not always considered important in the creation of this type of print, the main reason for using the colours being to make the print striking and attractive to possible customers.
This print depicts a scene from a Kabuki play. Kabuki is a type of popular Japanese drama, evolved from the older Nô theatre, in which elaborately costumed performers use stylised movements, dances and songs in order to enact tragedies and comedies. In this Kabuki scene a young hero (Sanada no Yoichi - at centre) grapples with one samurai (Yamaki Hangan - at lower right) as another (Matano no Gorô) threatens him with a large heavy cauldron.
The image reflects the stylised ostentation of the Kabuki theatre, and this formalised and stylised form of depiction was to remain popular until the decline of the ukiyo-e in the late 19th century.
This print can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box TOPIC JP1.