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Snow and love piled up at the Seki-no-to Barrier Gate, by Utagawa Kunisada

Image attached to P.508-1937

An image of Surimono. Bando Mitsugorô IV as Sekibei and Onoe Kikugorô III as Somezone in Tsumoru koi yuki seki no to (Snow and love piled up at the Seki-no-to Barrier Gate) performed at the Ichimura theatre in 11/1832. Kunisada, Utagawa (Japanese, 1786-1865). Colour print from woodblocks, with metallic pigments, blind embossing (karazuri), and design burnished on black of Sekibei’s costume. Shikishiban diptych. Signed: Kôchôrô Kunisada ga. Poets: Matsunoya Sononari and Shôeitei Tsukiyoshi. Ukiyo-e. 
Notes: This Kabuki dance drama set at the barrier gate at the pass on Mount Osaka sometime in the ninth century, was first performed in 1784. This scene comes from the second half of the play. Sekibei, posing as a guardian of the barrier, is none other than the villainous Ômoto no Kuronushi, who secretly plans to overtake the country. He gets drunk and deduces from the stars reflected in his drinking bowl that he will overthrow the emperor if he performs a ritual using burnt wood from the nearby giant black cherry tree. But when he tries to chop it down, he is halted by the appearance of the spirit of the tree in the guise of the beautiful courtesan Somezome (her name means ‘dyed-black’, like the tree). After a series of transformations Somezome is victorious. The poems both allude to the barrier gate (seki no to) in the title of the play; the second, by Shôeitei Tsukiyoshi, makes reference to the appearance of Onoe Kikugorô playing the spirit of the tree: ‘The ice of the mountains has melted and Onoe lingers like haze - he blooms like flowers at the barrier gate.’ Mitsugorô IV (1800-63) was the adopted son of Mitsugorô III. He inherited the family acting name in 1832.

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Surimono. Bando Mitsugorô IV as Sekibei and Onoe Kikugorô III as Somezone in Tsumoru koi yuki seki no to (Snow and love piled up at the Seki-no-to Barrier Gate) performed at the Ichimura theatre in 11/1832. Kunisada, Utagawa (Japanese, 1786-1865). Colour print from woodblocks, with metallic pigments, blind embossing (karazuri), and design burnished on black of Sekibei’s costume. Shikishiban diptych. Signed: Kôchôrô Kunisada ga. Poets: Matsunoya Sononari and Shôeitei Tsukiyoshi. Ukiyo-e. Notes: This Kabuki dance drama set at the barrier gate at the pass on Mount Osaka sometime in the ninth century, was first performed in 1784. This scene comes from the second half of the play. Sekibei, posing as a guardian of the barrier, is none other than the villainous Ômoto no Kuronushi, who secretly plans to overtake the country. He gets drunk and deduces from the stars reflected in his drinking bowl that he will overthrow the emperor if he performs a ritual using burnt wood from the nearby giant black cherry tree. But when he tries to chop it down, he is halted by the appearance of the spirit of the tree in the guise of the beautiful courtesan Somezome (her name means ‘dyed-black’, like the tree). After a series of transformations Somezome is victorious. The poems both allude to the barrier gate (seki no to) in the title of the play; the second, by Shôeitei Tsukiyoshi, makes reference to the appearance of Onoe Kikugorô playing the spirit of the tree: ‘The ice of the mountains has melted and Onoe lingers like haze - he blooms like flowers at the barrier gate.’ Mitsugorô IV (1800-63) was the adopted son of Mitsugorô III. He inherited the family acting name in 1832.

Image data

  • Accession Number: P.508-1937
  • Photograph copyright © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
  • Photographer name: Andrew Norman
  • Image height: 1025 pixels
  • Image width: 473 pixels
  • Processed with: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5.0 (Windows)
  • Filesize: 646.08kB

Key words

19th Century acting actor actors blind embossing burnished colour printing costume courtesan diptych embossed Fitz_PDP gates Japanese kabuki karazuri Kunisada male performance performer performing plays print role scenes Sekibei Shikishiban Somezone surimono theatre theatrical trees ukiyo-e Utagawa Kunisada woodblock woodcut

Colours in this image

rgb(216,206,178), rgb(47,56,48), rgb(147,134,107), rgb(127,159,157), rgb(105,137,131), rgb(162,174,154), rgb(103,95,73), rgb(65,109,116), rgb(77,95,84), rgb(180,132,82), rgb(180,124,76)

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The Fitzwilliam Museum (2022) "Snow and love piled up at the Seki-no-to Barrier Gate, by Utagawa Kunisada" Web page available at: https://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/image/media-218622 Accessed: 2022-10-07 12:41:25

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{{cite web|url=https://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/id/image/media-218622 |title=Snow and love piled up at the Seki-no-to Barrier Gate, by Utagawa Kunisada |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2022-10-07 12:41:25|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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        <img src="https://data.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/imagestore/pdp/pdp82/P_508_1937_dc2.jpg"
        alt="Bando Mitsugorô IV as Sekibei and Onoe Kikugorô III as Somezone in Tsumoru koi yuki seki no to (Snow and love piled up at the Seki-no-to Barrier Gate) performed at the Ichimura theatre in 11/1832"
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        <figcaption class="figure-caption text-info">Snow and love piled up at the Seki-no-to Barrier Gate, by Utagawa Kunisada</figcaption>
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