Sadanobu II, An Actor in the Role of Yuranosuke

Sadanobu II Hasegawa (1850 - 1940) An Actor in the Role of Yuranosuke, 1870’s. Deluxe Chuban.

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Another print by Sadanobu, again in the striking red that was ubiquitous by the late nineteenth century. It's not just the striking red though that is modern; the distinctive Osaka face has slipped… those mannerisms that made the Osaka print so instantly recognisable have gone. This face is almost western, although he still wears his hair in traditional Japanese style. The subject is wholly Japanese and illustrates an actor playing the part of Yuranosuke from the revenge drama, The Chushingura. The Kanadehon Chushingura of 1848 is the stage dramatisation of a real incident that occurred in 1702. Because of the stringent censorship at the time preventing the portrayal of recent events, the setting and many of the characters have been transposed to the fifteenth century. Hence the subject of the play - the enforced suicide of feudal Lord Asano of Ako and the revenge of 47 of his now redundant retainers (ronin) - becomes the suicide of Lord Enya Hangen, a character borrowed from another story and embroidered to fit the role. Of course, theatre audiences and the disenchanted towns people would have have known all of this and to emphasise the point, actors and artists were comfortable to use the Asano family crest on their cobbled together stage persona.

In this print, Sadanobu portrays the fictional figure of Oboshi Yuranosuke, an obvious alias for Oishi Kuranosuke, the chief retainer of Asano Naganori. In folklore, he is portrayed as a calm, determined man of steely principle. A man who would forsake his life and 46 of his comrades to go against the verdict of the courts and exact their own justice. Hence portraits of him show a man composed and at home with his own certain fate. We see him here against that striking red backcloth, his hand on his spear looking to his noble but futile future.

The colour is very fine, with lacquer, silver, gold and gauffrage applications and it is perfectly preserved. It is full size on Japanese album paper.

18cm x 25cm.