Hirosada, Nakamura Utaemon III as Jiraiya or Ishikawa Goemon

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Nakamura Utaemon III as Jiraiya or Ishikawa Goemon,  1848. Deluxe Chuban Triptych.

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This print is seemingly unknown… like so much of the work of the great Osaka printmakers. It is also a mystery. There is every reason to suppose that the actor here is certainly Nakamura Utaemon III and that he is playing the grand villain of all villains, Ishikawa Goemon. The link to the Lyon Collection, illustrates a print by Shigeharu of a similar scene, with a small child carried by the principle actor (rare in Osaka kabuki). 

In The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints, Roger Keyes writes on page 128:

For the production of a play on the subject of Ishikawa Goemon in the spring of 1833, Nakamura Utaemon III, the actor who played the role of the outlaw, especially commissioned a new episode from the playwright Nishizawa Ippo. A courtesan gives birth to a child, but abandons it to his father, Kano Shirojiro, in order to become the mistress of a wealthy lord. The father wanders through a snowy night, and the family is eventually reunited. Goemon is not mentioned in the subplot but only one baby appeared in the play. Why the bandit chief should be standing in a mountain pass at the head of his entire gang, holding the child, is unclear.

Alternatively, The Tokyo Fuji Art Museum's information on this print does not agree with that of Roger Keyes. It says that the actor is Nakamura Utaemon, but that the main character is Jiraiya and not Goemon. On top of that they give a different title for this play - something which the records at Waseda University agree with.

Either way, it is another staggeringly good nocturne by the incomparable Hirosada. A group of ninja form the backdrop, three characters occupy the stage apron. Everything crackles and sparkles, I have never seen burnished blacks of such vividness nor intensity, quite lost in the photography. The top of the print is thick with mica and elsewhere the overprinted colours are rich and dark. A masterpiece.

Three sheets on Japanese album paper. Colour, embellishments, condition and impression are all outstanding.

57 x 26 cm.