Kunisada II, Ichimura Kakitsu as Nozarashi Gosukei

Utagawa Kunisada II (123-1880) Ichimura Kakitsu as Nozarashi Gosukei, from the play Suru no Chitose Soga no Kadomatsu, 1849. Oban.

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This is a dramatic depiction of one of the great urban heroes of Edo, the otokodate. This particular character was called Nozarashi Gosukei, a bandit, robber but ‘chivalrous’ rogue who is always depicted wearing a very decorative kimono patterned with skulls - and, as in this case, skeletal parts -  somewhat unconvincingly, because he was committed to getting people out of trouble "as if pulling grass out of the eyes of weather-beaten skulls". He was one of the henchman of the notorious brigand and show off, Nippon Daemon.  He features in his own play, Sui bodai godo no Nozarashi, which was based on the yomihon (illustrated book) by Santo Kyoden called Honcho Sui Bodai Zenden and dramatized by Kawatake Mokuami.

This print commemorates a performance of a New Year’s play, Suru no Chitose Soga no Kadomatsu, likely to have been a collection of related short dramas and dance performances. The text for the performance is now lost.

The most famous image of Nozarashi Gosukei is by Kuniyoshi, of the character sporting the skull kimono and carrying an ominous skull shaped sandal.

Kunisada II was the son-in-law of the famous Kunisada (Toyokuni III) adopting the name Kunisada in the 1840’s. He later became head of the Utagawa School.

A fantastic image, the skull print kimono portraits of Gosukei are highly collectible. We see the sly, cofident face of the bandit, his iron flute just visible over his right shoulder.  The print is in very good condition, full size and with margins. Colour and impression are very good.

25 x 36 cm.