Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Tales of Loyalty, Bravery and Filial Devotion, 1848. Chuban.
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A tremendous and colourful Osaka chuban print, shining like stained glass on the page. The title of this series and others similar to it - Tales of Loyalty and Heroism ("Chûkô buyû den") - reflects the cautious approach that Osaka artists took to publishing immediately after the moralistic Tenpo Reforms of the 1840’s. Make no mistake these were very real persecutions of artists, publishers, actors and printers for any supposed violation of what was in effect a temperance movement… a prohibition on luxury, artistic expression, freedom and art.
After some relaxation of the laws artists and publishers began making new work in this smaller (easier to conceal) format, in limited numbers and with limited circulation. Exquisite, passionate and hand crafted, these chuban portraits are a testament to the artistic endeavours of Osaka artists. The title of these sometimes lengthy series were merely a way deflecting criticism… a game between the public, who were aware of the actor names and the roles that were being presented, and the authorities. Hence this series is supposedly a set of moral instructions on worthy ideals of loyalty. In fact they are actor portraits for besotted fans.
In this case the actor is probably Ichikawa Ebizo V as the Warrior Akushichibyoe Kagekiyo. There is another portrait of the same subject in this series, which shows the actor and character in disguise as a priest bent on assassination. This print is very possibly from the same play (Keisei Soga Kamakura Daijin) but from an alternative scene.
Akushichibyoe Kagekiyo failed in his attempted plot and was blinded and exiled.
There are several known prints from the series but I cannot find a copy of this print in the literature or in museum collections… making it somewhat rare and unusual.
It is an excellent print. Fine colour, impression and condition.
25 x 18 cm.