Shirai Gompachi

Gompachi, a dispossessed samurai, fell in love with the courtesan Komurasaki. Their tragic story is told in the kabuki play A Lover's nightmare in the Yoshiwara.

In the kabuki version of the drama, Gompachi is escaping the police across the Sumida River. Seeing a second band of police on the opposite bank, he committed suicide in the middle of the river.

The actor has assumed a fixed pose (mie) and crossed his eyes to express the intense drama of this climactic moment. The gruesome beauty of blood is explored and enhanced by the fine hidden black-on-black key-pattern of Gompachi's garment.

'Themes of blood', such as suicides and murders grew increasingly popular on the kabuki stage. As couples started to imitate the suicide of the lovers, the performance of such plays had to be suspended for a time.

Shirai Gompachi Utagawa KUNISADA
Japanese 1786-1864
Utagawa TOYOKUNI, signed as
Shirai Gompachi
1860 Edo, Japan

colour woodblock
36.8 x 25.1 cm (image and sheet)
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the
assistance of Coles Myer Ltd, Governor, 1993 (AS27-1993)

Shirai Gompachi

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