Hirosada, Actors as Ettyujiro and Kagekiyo in Gedatsu

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Actors in the roles of Ettyujiro and Kagekiyo in Gedatsu, 1848. Deluxe Chuban Triptych.

Click here for a full-size image.

Hirosada is undoubtedly the master of the single portrait head. He created a genre that dominated the Osaka print scene throughout the 1840’s. Less successful are some of his triptychs which can lack drama and compositional daring. When Hirosada is truly engaged with the chuban triptych he can be really outstanding as in the case of this print and the others in this show. He especially excelled at night time scenes, using the dark, overprinted high quality inks that were a speciality of the short run, high status Osaka printers.

The scene here is from the play Gedatsu, starring one of kabuki’s great loud heroes, Kagekiyo. The complex plot involves two perennial devices of kabuki; a prostitute with two rival lovers and a stolen sword. The rogue Kagekiyo is looking for a stolen sword, whilst awaiting his girlfriend, her other lover turns up with the stolen sword (or so he thinks) and mayhem ensues… Kagekiyo in fact ends up as the owner of the great sword, Raimeimaru, (Name of Thunder. ) Towards the end of the performance, lightning strikes a great cherry tree, the magic sword is revealed and a fight ensues - pictured in this magnificent print.

Sadly, Akoya, the girl, is left trapped under the temple bell with warning notices that any attempt at touching the bell will end in sudden death.

The print is simply outstanding, rich dark colours, superb printing, outstanding design and all the finest embellishments that Osaka printers had to offer - gold and silver inks, overprinting, dense blacks and so on. Three sheets on backing paper, colour, impression and condition are all fine. The print is generally known as a diptych with the centre and right hand sheets only, making this much rarer.