Kiyosada, Jitsukawa Enzaburo I as the Monkey Handler Kojin Yojiro

Utagawa Kiyosada (active 1848) Jitsukawa Enzaburo I as the Monkey Handler Kojin Yojiro, 1848. Deluxe Chuban.

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This utterly delightful - rare and unusual - print is by the confusingly named Utagawa Kiyosada. The more famous Kiyosada was an Edo artist who was active much later and with his son, created a very famous set of prints commemorating the Danjuro line of actors' favourite eighteen plays. It was not unusual for Osaka artists to have the forename Utagawa since many of them had apprenticeships in Edo with Utagawa School artists and the sojourn and subsequent name might be seen as a badge of honour. Nothing is known about the artist short of this and a handful of other prints.

The print (there is a subtitle suggesting that it is an example of filial piety…. a common necessity following Osaka’s moral reformation in the 1840’s) shows the monkey handler Kojin Yojiro holding a monkey and is delicate, charming, delightful and just a little naive - had Kiyosada seen an actual monkey? The play, Chikagoro Kawara no Tatehiki, tells the story of a family: Ogin the mother, her son Yojiro and his sister Oshun. Oshun is a prostitute in love with a murderer. Brother and mother try to keep them apart but they vow to die in a double suicide. One night, the lover Dembei breaks in with the intent of carrying out the double suicide but the lovers are disturbed by Ogin and Yojiro and after much debate, the mother agrees to let the lovers marry and live together - her generosity conquering her concern for her daughter’s happiness. Yojiro dances a famous dance at the end of the performance. The actor Onoe Kikugoro V had the idea to use a real monkey on stage when he played the role of Yojiro. The highlight of the performance was something not expected by the actor: the monkey urinating on the stage ... to the audience's delight.

A lovely print with fine blind embossing and delicate printing. A charming and rare print. This copy is in outstanding condition, the printing on the monkey is a masterpiece of detail and delicacy, the background is richly animated by deep blind embossing, a truly remarkable object. A copy of this print is in the Los Angeles County Museum.  

18.5 cm x 25.5cm.