Sadanobu I, Lives of Renowned Swordfighters

Hasegawa Sadanobu I (1809 - 1879) Lives of Renowned Swordfighters (Kenjutsu meiyo den), 1850. Deluxe Chuban Diptych.

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This is an outstanding diptych by the first in the line of the Sadanobu dynasty. It shows the actors Actors Mimasu Daigoro IV as Honda Dainaiki (R) and Nakamura Utaemon IV as Karaki Masaemon (L), from the series Lives of Renowned Swordfighters (Kenjutsu meiyo den).

Coming several years after the worst of the censorship reforms of the early 1840’s, this print still obscures the real subject matter by making the ostensible subject about swordsmen in history. It is in fact a portrait of two popular actors - one of whom, Utaemon IV, was absurdly popular with a fanatical following - from a play, Keisei Homare no Sukedachi, whose plot is now lost, although some of the characters and their story arc lives on in other plays.

There was a real life vendetta in 1634 following the murder of Matagoro by Watanabe Kazuma in revenge for the murder of his father and the action portrayed here is an adaptation of that. 

The print, (a copy uncannily like this one with the same flaw in the top of the left sheet, is in the collection of the MFA in Boston), is really superb with deep, deep embossing across the horizontal stripes in the background and especially across the bands of decoration on the left hand figure.  Overall the decoration and quality of design and printing is outstanding.

Colour, impression and condition are all fine. Two sheets attached with album backing.