The fifteen year old Komurasaki (小むらさき), daughter of a wealthy merchant of Edo (江戸), was held captive by a gang and was rescued by a young samurai, Shirai Gonpachi (白井権八), who was fleeing from the Tottori Domain (鳥取藩), where he was guilty of a murder. The two young fell in love but she, following various events, ended up becoming a courtesan in the famous red-light district of Yoshiwara (吉原). Lacking the funds to liberate Komurasaki from a life of prostitution, Gonpachi turned to a life of debauchery, supporting his lifestyle by robbery and murder but ended up being arrested and executed. Their tragic love story ended with Komurasaki’s suicide on the grave of her beloved.
The fine woodblock print presented here is taken from the series “The Fifty Three Stations” (五十三次之内) by the artist Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞), is dedicated to the Miya (宮) station and depicts the young Komurasaki interpreted by the actor Sawamura Tanosuke III (三代目沢村田之助). The work is the left panel of a diptych depicting the famous couple. In the missing right panel, the actor Ichikawa Ichizo III (三代目市川市蔵) plays the role of Gonpachi.
The print on Japanese washi paper (和紙), produced in March 1860 by the publisher Omiya Kyujiro (近江屋久次郎), owner of Kiyudo (亀遊堂), and by the carver Koizumi Minokichi (小泉巳之吉), is in very good condition.