Baido, Ichikawa Sadanji as Murai Choan

Utagawa Kunimasa IV/Hosai Baido (1848-1920) Ichikawa Sadanji as Murai Choan in Kanzen Choaku Nozoki Garakuri, c1890. Oban Triptych.

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Baido took a confusing array of names in his career. He is also known as Kunisada III and Toyokuni IV, later Toyokuni V and Kunimasa IV. Amy Riegle Newland comments:

Hosai died from illness, age 72, on 26 October 1920 at his home in Asakusa-tamachi.  Following his death, his role in the history of Meiji actor prints was largely forgotten and overshadowed by the accomplishments of the more prolific, and creative, figure of Kunichika.  But perhaps we should re-assess Hosai's role and accord him a position, if not the most innovative of designers, then at least as a final figure in the long line of Utagawa school actor image makers.

This tremendous print of the stage play, Kanzen Chôaku Nozoki Garakuri shows the evil doctor Murai Choan on the left, played by Ichikawa Sadanji. Choan, who appears to be a man of integrity is actually an evil doctor who has given his house  to his young sister Osoyo and her husband Jube, a poor farmer. Choan tricks them into selling their daughter Oume into prostitution in Edo and in return Jube is paid 50 ryo.

Choan makes Jube set off for home on a rainy night and then runs ahead of him to lie in wait. He kills Jube and steals the money. Intentionally Choan leaves a paper umbrella, as an evidence of the crime. This umbrella belongs to the Fujikake Dojuro, who forgot it when he visited Choan's clinic to pay for some medical treatment. Fukikake is framed for the murder but Choan gets further and further into evil, murdering his own sister to advance himself in the violent cut-throat world of Edo.

The figure of the roundel on the right is that of Fujikake, the wronged ronin, falsely accused of murder - here played by Ichikawa Gonjuro. A bold and adventurous piece of design from the last year of the century which saw woodblock printing evolve from modest cottage industry to the huge cultural machine of its peak in the 1860’s and its decline and extinction in that form in the final decade.

Baido shows the scene in the second scene of Act I. We see Choan in front of a rainy backdrop of the Yoshiwara wield a sword, slicing his brother in law in two… Jube holds up the paper umbrella for protection and the owner, Fujikake watches on from the hovering roundel… a symbol of conscience for Choan’s dark deed.

A very fine, bold design. Colour, impression and condition are very good, the three sheets are unbacked and unattached. Some glue residue on the reverse. Offsetting marks on the face of Choan.

72 x 35.5 cm.