Sadanobu, Jitsukawa Ensaburo in the play Mido Mae no Adauchi

Hasegawa Sadanobu (Japanese, 1809–1879) Jitsukawa Ensaburo in the play Mido Mae no Adauchi, 1848. Chuban.

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A jewel of a print in outstanding condition, as if just printed. Sadanobu here pictures the great Osaka actor Jitsukawa Ensaburō in the play Mido Mae no Adauchi. This is a revenge drama, the plot seemingly lost or obscure. The print is from a short series, of Biographies of Famous Warriors, the date here of 1848 gives away the closeness to the hated Tenpo Reforms that forbade the naming of actors and restricted the range of subjects that artists could treat. It is certain that the reforms were in part responsible for this smaller chuban size - a size that could be more easily concealed or traded - and yet the richness of the ukiyo-e is somehow condensed on this smaller format… the colours more intense, the lines crisper, the print runs shorter.

Under the reforms, morally uplifting subject matter was permissible. The fact that the audience recognised the features of the actor meant that the real subject could be alluded to or obscure.

It is frankly a miracle that prints survive in this quality. Colour, condition and impression are pristine. Very fine quality throughout and a superb design. A copy of the print is in the Metropolitan Museum, New York.

26 x 19 cm.