Sadanobu, Kataoka Gado as the Shopkeeper Yashichi

Hasegawa Sadanobu (Japanese, 1809–1879), Kataoka Gado as the Shopkeeper Yashichi, 1848. Oban.

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A very good print of the perfume seller Magoshichi by the artist Sadonobu in the larger oban format. This is a nicely mysterious picture… it is in fact from a play that is one of the very many spin off stories of the Chushingura - the story (based on real events) of the leaderless samurai revenging themselves on their master.

This is perhaps the most famous drama of kabuki theatre and the real historical characters are still revered today at their shrine and in films, books, plays and cartoons. The kabuki story tells of the suicide of Enya Hangan who in 1701 was forced to draw his sword in the Shogun’s palace by the goading  of the courtier Moronao. Hangan is obliged to commit suicide for the offence and his retainers become Ronin, leaderless samurai. They vow revenge and the play revolves around their plotting and preparation, culminating in the storming of Moronao’s house and his eventual assassination.

The play, Gishinden Yomikiri Kôshaku takes a minor incident and weaves a full length drama into invented backstory. The trinket seller, Yashichi is having an affair with the prostitute Otaka. It turns out in Act I that Yashichi is not in fact a humble shopkeeper at all but Senzaki Yagoro, one of  Hangen’s retainers, bent on revenge and secretly engaged in mapping the compound of Moronao in preparation for the planned attack. He tells his plans to his lover but when Moronao’s retainers visit the shop, who should be with them but Otaka. Confused, Yashichi decides that he must kill her in case she betrays him.

In fact, as she prepares to leave the shop she hands the plans of Moronao’s compound to Yashichi but as she gets into her palanquin he notices that he is bleeding from her sleeve, a sign that she has killed herself on his behalf.

Really a very nice Osaka print, oban sized and quite uncommon. Colour, impression and condition are all very good. Print is full size, some slight matting discolouration to the margin. One or two wormholes, repaired. Unusual and very lovely metallics and shomen-zuri pattern on the casket.

Published by Ten-ki.

37.5 x 25.5 cm.