Sadamasu, Okawa Hashizo as Rokusa

Utagawa Sadamasu (active 1834 - 1854) Okawa Hashizo as Rokusa, c1848. Deluxe Chuban.

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This is an absolutely outstanding print by Sadamasu (Kunimasu) from 1848. Part of a short series of actor portraits in the Osaka okubi-e form, it's series title is Honcho Gishinden  ("Tales of Honour and Fidelity in our Country"). The colour, condition and impression are all superb. The figure of the carpenter (daiku) Rokusa, is set against the beautiful background of rippling pink dress material. It is possible that the series of prints were sponsored by a dressmakers' supplier as is the case with a Kunisada of similar design from 1844. Certainly the Kunisada conveys a sense of Osaka formalism in the drawing and the striking vertical dot-and-dash pattern seems to have an echo in the Sadamasu.

The print portrays Rokusaburo, a carpenter from the play Sanzesô Nishiki Bunshô.  It revolves around a hapless affair between Rokusaburo and  the courtesan Osono, a lost poem scroll of great value and family disgrace.

The story of Osono and Rokusa is based on two real events which happened in Osaka in 1749. On the 18th day of the 3rd lunar month of the 2nd year of the Kan'en era, the courtesan Osono (from the Minami pleasure district) and the carpenter Rokusa committed a double suicide. The same day, a courtesan from the Kita Shinchi pleasures district, who had killed her elder brother and was sentenced to death, was executed. The story of Osono and Rokusa is a fusion of these two real events. The play was a popular subject for print artists because it included a magical carp wrestling scene involving a giant carp and huge tank of water. 

The print is important because it announces the artist's change of name from Sadamasu to Kunimasu… Literally: "Sadamasu changing to Kunimasu". The title of the play is in the elaborate upper left cartouche which is shaped like a bat along its upper edge.

This is an outstanding print from the moment of the artist’s transition to maturity. The drawing is strong and commanding with huge self confidence. The impression is superbly crisp and the print has the feel of being produced yesterday. Backed onto Japanese album paper, full size with original margins.

25cm x 17cm.