Hirosada, Tales of Loyalty, Bravery and Filial Devotion - Arashi Rikan III

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Tales of Loyalty, Bravery and Filial Devotion (Chuko Buyu-den): Arashi Rikan III, 1848. Deluxe Chuban.

Click here for a full-size image.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

The series title, Chuko Buyu-den ("Tales of Loyalty, Bravery and Filial Devotion"), is inscribed in the red and white cartouche at the upper left. It is one of several similar titles that Hirosada used on prints in the wake of the Tenpo reforms that had banned the publication of actor prints from 1842-1847.

The reforms of the mid-1840’s were particularly harsh for the theatre and the artistic community in Osaka. The entire culture was forced underground from time to time during these years. Theatres struggled, actors starved and only because many of the print artists were also merchants did the visual arts survive at all. It is suggested that  the change from the oban to the chuban formant of this time was a response to the legality of the practice and that these smaller prints were easier to conceal and to sell. In fact many of these jewel-like prints…. technically far and away the finest of nineteenth century Japan - were commissioned by secretive coterie fan clubs who idolised the actors and playwrights.

On this print, the cartouche on the upper right announces to the censor that this is a print from a series of educational pamphlets encouraging loyalty and family values! The portrait of the actor was so transparent that no one, including government censors, was fooled into thinking that these images were anything but actor prints. Note, too, that the actor's name is not given on the print, a small price to pay to skirt penalties, as ukiyo-e patrons knew the physiognomies of the actors and were intimately familiar with current stage productions. The role is given sometimes but that too was omitted on occasion. Even the sumptuous colours and the complex design of a print like this one did not escape censure. Periodically, the law would clamp down on outward shows of luxury even in prints.

Colour and impression are all fine. Mica in the blue background, and spiderweb shomenzuri to the robe. Unbacked. Condition very good.

18 x 25 cm.