Hirosada, Tales of Renowned Heroes - Matsugae Tetsunosuke and Saibara Kageyu

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Tales of Renowned Heroes: Kataoka Gadô II as Matsugae Tetsunosuke and Arashi Rikan III as Saibara Kageyu, 1848. Chuban Diptych.

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A tremendous Hirosada diptych in very good condition; most copies of this print are quite poor. The play illustrated here is set in the seventeenth century, a classic drama that was adapted to the kabuki stage in different guises. The story involves Lord Ashikaga Yorikane’s murder of the prostitute Takao. As with so much nineteenth century kabuki, the plot derives from an actual event in recent history. The plot is entwined with another tale familiar to ukiyo-e enthusiasts; that of Nikki Danjo and his mystical conspiracy to overthrow Yorikane. In the many plays in which Danjo appears, the theft of a magic scroll and the murder of a child heir are orchestrated by the magician who can dramatically turn himself into a rat in order to steal and cause mischief.

Nikki Danjo is obviously present in the ghostly apparition of the giant rat lurking in the background of the left hand sheet. The prints contains three characters; the two actors and the mystical presence of Danjo the arch-villain of kabuki, there only in spirit.

Coming only three years after some relaxation of the censorship laws, artists and publishers began making new work on 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 creative endeavours of these 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. There is a lot going on here… note especially the brilliant contrast of the foreground figures with the ghostly rat… and the fabulous embroidered dragon and the looming Chinese thunder clouds on the back of Arashi Rikan’s costume. As usual with the Osaka printers, the shaded bokashi that makes up the background is peerlessly executed.

The print is in very good condition, colour and impression are fine. There is some trimming from inclusion in a Japanese album. The two sheets are attached and backed with Japanese album paper.

Published by Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei)