Kunisada, Arashi Rikan III as Chokichi

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Arashi Rikan III as Chokichi, 1852. Oban.

A fine portrait study of the troubled ruffian Chokichi, from the play, Futatsu chocho kuruwa nikki,  originally a piece produced for the puppet theatre (bunraku) but later transferred to the kabuki stage. It is a play of adolescent angst and it is reassuringly familiar for every generation with teenage sons. The play deals with the conflict between what is expected of young, ill-educated males and what the greater demands of an organised society expects. The wider world of Edo Japan is represented here by the organisation of the prayer circle and the controlled plotting of the sister

Chokichi (played by Arashi Rikan III) is the orphaned brother of Oseki. Chokichi is wayward and fond of fighting; his dutiful sister struggles with the rice ball shop of their late parents and longs for Chokichi to settle down. He is joined on stage by Chogoro for a pre-arranged fight but they are interrupted by strangers accusing Chokichi of stealing their money. Strange purses full of cash turn up all over the house and Chokichi is saved from arrest by his sister paying off the aggrieved parties. Chokichi promises to reform and is supported by his rival Chogoro. At the close of the play it is revealed that the accusers are all members of Oseki’s prayer group who have agreed to the deception in order to reform her brother. The play would effortlessly translate to a contemporary urban setting in Chicago or London.

The print is an outstanding essay in subtle browns and lighter interventions of blue. The subtle umber, rose and earth shades build up a terrific and sombre palette - those blues punching a hole in the scene and hinting at the ordered world beyond. Chokichi is here looking out of that sombre world - perhaps to his future... there is heaviness and regret in that look of resignation. He wears a strikingly drawn kimono of wild horses. These Tibetan designs are symbolic of his restless nature and of his mind changing… the impetuous challenges of youth. I think this is one of those prints that is so much more outstanding than its value or its place in the canon. A really fine piece of art.

The colour and impression are all fine. Condition is very good, a little surface marking and some slight overall trimming.

Published by Sumiyoshiya Masagoro.

24.5 x 35.5 cm.