Sadanobu II, Actors Viewed as Beautiful Places in Japan

Hasegawa Sadanobu II (1850 - 1940) Actors viewed as beautiful places in Japan (Haiyu Mitate Nippon Meisho) Late 1870’s. Oban.

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This is a great, late Osaka School print, boldly shouting out in Meiji Red. This strong colour palette has habitually been used by slightly sniffy scholars to denigrate later nishiki-e from the Meiji Era. In fact, research carried out in the last few years shows that there was no sudden, European-influenced rush to vulgarity, that Japanese print artists took a gradual approach to new pigments, and that violet was the only direct innovation from aniline dye technology. The article in Viewing Japanese Prints gives fascinating technical insight into the subject.

This print is from a very rare, in fact more or less lost series of prints by the last of the Osaka School, Hasegawa Sadonobu II. The series is a mitate: Actors Viewed as Beautiful Places in Japan. The trick was to put an actor, a role and a view together and let the viewer sort out the puns and links between them. Here we have a view of Enoshima in Sagami Province, a scene lifted directly from Hiroshige’s view of the same place from 1842.

I cannot say who the actor is but the role is probably that of the priest Jikyu. Shiragikumaru was a young acolyte and lover of the temple priest Jikyu. Unable to live with the harassment of the other priests they resolve to commit suicide in the sea at Enoshima. Jikyu survives the fall to the sea, but seventeen years later, when called upon to minister to the Princess Sakura, he finds that she is the the reincarnation of his young lover. Kunichika made a print of the subject in 1869 and the pose is very similar, as is the actor.

Very rare, I can only find one other print from the series anywhere in the world. The drawing of the landscape is lovely; figure, robust and sensitive. A really attractive print in pristine condition. Clean crisp blocks, bright colours and no damage. Condition, colour and impression all fine, full size and unbacked.

Published by Ishikawa Wansuk.

24.5 x 37 cm.