Sadayoshi, Actors as the Lovers Miura-ya Komurasaki and Shirai Gonpachi

Kaishuntei Sadayoshi (active 1832 - 1853) Actors as the Lovers Miura-ya Komurasaki and Shirai Gonpachi, 1840.  Oban.

Click here for a full-size image.

This is a very lovely actor print by the mysterious print artist Kaishuntei Sadayoshi. Sadayoshi was a pupil of Gochotei Kunimasa (Sadamasu).  This marvellous and rare print is unusual in that of his limited known prints, only one third - around forty prints - was in this larger oban format. This print is from a series of mitate, a genre of playful word and image puzzles designed to entertain the viewer by the clever associations and juxtapositions of the characters or scenes.

The series then is called Mitate Jofu Awase and it puts actors in fictional roles (actual roles but not from actual performances) in situations of male and female love. The series is a parody on marriage effectively. The standing figure is the actor Kataoka Gado as the kabuki anti-hero Hirai Gonpachi and his companion is the actor is Nakayama Yoshio III playing the onnagata (female impersonator) role of Komurasaki, his doomed lover from the play, Hiyoku no Cho Haru no Soga Giku ("That Song and a Dream of Yoshiwara").

Gonpachi was a Ronin - a leaderless samurai and street tough. He rescues a girl from the inn of some bandits in return for her warning him that he is to be robbed that night. Later, in the Yoshiwara district he finds the same girl, the daughter of humble grocers, now working as a prostitute in order to keep her elderly parents. Gonpachi,  unable to help her this time, turns to crime and the play shows how he loses his chivalrous spirit and becomes a murderer - robbing for money to visit the brothel where he sees his lover. In the final act he comes in his flight in the dead of night to a river where there is a small ferryboat. It turns out that the boatman is a policeman  in disguise. In a moment he is surrounded by a group of more police  and rather than be taken and executed, he commits suicide by self-disembowelment. Komurasaki committed suicide at his grave. This and many other kabuki dramas of the time, was based on a true story of tragic lovers and were the frequent subject mater of kabuki artists. 

Sadayoshi has invented the roles here and shows the pair not as thief and prostitute but as more dignified characters on the verandah of a smart building above the cherry blossom. This is a rare print from this artist and an uncommon series.

Colour and impression are good. The condition is good with some scuffing, particularly to the upper left. A very fine and complex design.

Published by Wataya Kihei.

37 x 24 cm.