Hirosada, Jitsukawa Ensaburo as Inuzuka Shino and Kataoka Gado II as Inugai Kempachi in Hakkenden

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864)  Jitsukawa Ensaburo and Kataoka Gado II as Inuzuka Shino (Moritake) and Inugai Kempachi in Hakkenden, 1851. Deluxe three sheet chuban.

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This wonderful print is as captivating, as perfect and as entrancing as the photograph above suggests. The colours, textures and finishes shimmer and change under the light. The design is outstanding, and extremely rare, the quality of the block cutting and the printing is breathtaking and the conception and composition, original and daring. A real masterpiece of design and printing.

The print illustrates a scene from one of the many Hakkenden ('Eight Dog Hero') plays that were so popular in the theatres of the mid-nineteenth century. This scene, Act 5, on the roof of the Horyukaku from the drama, The Eight Buds of Plum Blossom features Jitsukawa Ensaburo and Kataoka Gado II as Inuzuka Shino and Inugai Kempachi and three comic ‘policemen’ seen in the bottom right-hand sheet. The complex plot centres on the eight offspring of a supernatural marriage between a princess and her father’s dog. Shamed at the birth of her children, she kills herself and the eight beads of her rosary, each representing a Buddhist virtue, become crystal orbs and disperse, the children being reborn to normal mothers sixteen years later. The plot twists and turns as the eight brothers become acquainted as adults.  The fantastic and macabre tale tells the story of the eight who battle to restore the fallen samurai house of Satomi. Each hero represents one of the eight samurai virtues and each has a name that includes the ideograph for 'dog' (inu). The fight on the roof of the Horyukaku, when Inuzuka Shino Moritaka defends himself against Inugai Kempachi Nobumichi, the chief of police, was a favourite theme among artists and their public. 

Every use of deluxe techniques has been used on this print - gold and bronze inks, shading, overprinting, embossing and burnishing. A wonderful print, slightly trimmed and, unusually, unbacked. Colour, condition and impression outstandingly fine.

The print is reproduced on p.122 of Keyes, Hirosada: Osaka Printmaker, California University Art Museum, 1984.

Published by Meikodo.

37 x 51 cm.