Hirosada, Ichikawa Ebizo V as Kinugawa Tanizo

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Ichikawa Ebizo V as Kinugawa Tanizo, 1848. Chuban.

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This print by the great Osaka artist, Hirosada is of a sumo wrestler and comes from a series of prints entitled, A Mirror of Filial and Loyal Wrestlers, (Chuko sekitori kagami). Hirosada rarely made prints other than those of specific kabuki productions. This series depicts five leading actors of the kabuki theatre from different plays. In kabuki drama, wrestlers were usually cast as swaggering combative figures pitting themselves against injustice. We can see that the title of the series reflects the caution of the artist regarding the very strict Tenpo Reforms that prevailed especially in Osaka at this time. The word ‘filial’ is unnecessary in this context and only there to please the state censors who strongly disapproved of actors and the theatre. The cartouche at the top of the print is derived from a toshidama, that used in the Utagawa School, and is a clear homage. It helps to date Hirosada’s prints since he only used it in mid-1848.

The play is supernatural… one of the great ghost stories of kabuki. Tanizo, a retired sumo, now serves a powerful daimyo. To protect his master, he murders a courtesan, the master’s mistress. To escape detection, Tanizo changes his name to Yoemon. and lives in the country with the courtesan’s younger sister, Kasane. Kasane though is turned from a beautiful girl into a limping monster by her sister Takao’s ghost.

A bounty hunter on the look out for Tanizo tricks them all, and a passing brothel owner attracts Kasane’s attention as a way that she might sell her body to rescue her husband from debt. For Kasane does not know she has been changed, as Tanizo has forbidden mirrors in the house. After many complications, they all meet in a very famous scene on the banks of the river. Kasane has seen her reflection,  while Tanizo is committed to murdering the bounty hunter, and rescuing a princess. In the end, the dramatic last scene is dominated by the ghost of Takao who takes over the characters  and Tanizo kills Kasane and escapes down the hanamachi.

Hirosada allows the subject almost to fill the frame of this robust portrait. The huge bulk of the wrestler dominates the picture, and there is pathos in that anxious, worried face. The presence of the supernatural is indicate by the fiery coil of ghostly phosphorescence in the upper right corner that seems to suggest that the spirit world exceeds the world of the stage. The print is illustrated on page 58 of the monograph on Hirosada, Hirosada: Osaka Printmaker, by Roger Keyes and is described on page 83.

Colour and impression are very good. Condition is excellent. Unbacked.

Published by Kinkado Konishi .

24.5 x 18 cm.

£180.00