Yoshitaki, Onoe Tamizo II as Gonpachi

Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841 - 1899) Onoe Tamizo II as Gonpachi, 1860’s. Chuban.

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This fabulous, jewel like, dramatic and super rare print, offers some if not all of the tragic themes of the Edo male...his ‘duty’, his ‘honour’, his destiny... Here we see the tragic anti-hero Gonpachi, eviscerating himself on a boat… his last means of escape. Trapped between his love for the equally tragic Komurasaki and the obligation to pay for his life of crime he decides on the honourable way out. He was in fact caught and beheaded but the kabuki script writers knew that the Edo audience would require more moral conflict and that the hero would need a heavier and more satisfactory burden, hence in popular prints he is shown, gutting himself with a sword, or in this case several! Or else blowing his guts out with a blunderbuss.

The story of Gonpachi migrated back and forth between the two great artistic centres of nineteenth century Japan, Edo and Osaka, as did the actors and their retinues of understudies. The first print in this show was made in Edo by Yoshiiku, several years later and shows the same scene but with the updated method of despatch.

This print by Yoshitaki, probably dated from the early 1860’s is a real jewel. It is most likely from a small series depicting actors in imaginary roles… sometimes referred to as mitate. In this case, the actors are most likely representing the five elements… this being water. A fine print, colour, condition and impression are all fine. Richly embellished, burnished blacks and metallics on the blades and other areas. Micah sprinkled to top edge. I can find no record of this print in the literature.

18 x 26 cm.