Hirosada, Kataoka Gado II as Ishikawa Goemon in Keisei Ishikawazome

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Kataoka Gado II as Ishikawa Goemon  in Keisei Ishikawazome, 1848. Deluxe Chuban.

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A tremendous print by the master of later Osaka printmaking, Konishi Hirosada. The print is typical of the chubans of the later part of Hirosada’s career. The drawing is fine, sparse and economical....the abstraction devoted to the representation of the overwhelming pattern of flowers that adorn the kimono and anchor the whole design to the page is incomparable. These extraordinary prints - of which there are only a few hundred - are some of the best designed and most elegant of nineteenth century portraits. For so many years they have sailed beneath the radar of connoisseurs, but one must surely assume that such exquisite and delicate pieces… so bold in their creation and yet so modest and delicate in their restraint, will be acknowledged for the rare and great art that they are. When holding the chuban designs with their tremendous, deep embossing and the seemingly endless resourceful techniques, it is hard to keep in mind that they are manufactured from chunks of hand planed cherry, gouged with chisels and printed with water based inks on handmade paper.

In addition to the technical obstacles, the 1840’s saw the hefty moral reforms of the failing Tokugawa regime. These effectively outlawed print making and kabuki especially in the region of Osaka. Kamigata-e were particularly badly hit and therefore the prints were traded semi-legally, and without signatures, actor names or role names… making it very difficult at this reach of time to access the plays and the stories behind them.

This small masterpiece and another in the show come from a short series that recalls a performance of Keisei Ishikawazome at the Chikugo Theater in Osaka. The plot involved Ishida no Tsubone and the outlaw Ishikawa Goemon. In this performance the part of Goemon is played by Gado II. A scene from this play and its premiere performance shows the final dramatic scene at the Sanmon Gate.

Hirosada has used a rare technique of woodgraining in the background called Itame-mokuhan: literally, "imitation woodgrain"; the use of a densely grained woodblock which has been soaked in water to emphasise the pattern of the grain. Elsewhere, the collar has been embossed and burnished. Colour and impression are fine, condition is very good… clean and sharp. The print has a thin Japanese album backing.

18 x 25 cm.