Yoshitaki, Actors in the play Otoko Ippiki Sukui no Tatehiki

Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841 - 1899) Actors in the play Otoko Ippiki Sukui no Tatehiki, 1862. Deluxe Chuban tetraptych.

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This amazing print, a four sheet work, plays beautifully with three elements… the red, the green and the subtle feature that combines the two complimentary colours; the deep, deep embossing of the square panels that describes the curtain and its undulations and links the chequerboard pattern into a unified whole across the sweep of the entire design. Set against this sumptuous, luminous rippling backcloth are the four actors in the performance of  the kabuki play, Otoko Ippiki Sukui no Tatehiki.

The play is in a genre called Kurofune-chuemonmono… these dramas were based around a true incident from the eighteenth century about a fraudster, Gokumon no Shobei who abuses the populace of Osaka. A spirited otokodate, Kurofune Chuemon takes it upon himself to challenge Shobei’s gang on behalf of the populace.  Eventually in desperation, Chuemon kills Shobei and hands himself into the police. There are several plays that use these characters to different or similar ends. The titling of plays was a precise art, there being rules laid down to mark out the number of syllables in the title, the types of words and the subject matter. This play is well known because it contravenes those guidelines. Depending on pronunciation, the play title can be: Entering the Portat Dojima, or One Man: a Deal for Salvation.

We see here the figure of Kurofune Chuemon played by Onoe Tamizou Mimasu, far left; Gennosuke III as Kamakuraya Gorohachi in the second sheet from the left; Jitsukawa Ensaburo as Hanjimono no Kihei second from right; and Gokumon no Shobei is played by Arashi Kichisaburo in the far right panel.

A great design, which is very rare in this form. There are some lovely effects on the printing aside from the checked backcloth, deeply embossed, burnished and with touches of metallics. A fine set. Colour and impression are all fine. The print appears to have been produced onto thin paper to achieve the maximum depth of embossing and this paper mounted immediately onto another thin sheet as part of the process. The background, especially, has great depth and whilst the surface is scuffed in places, much of the grain of the print comes from this 2-part process.

The only other complete set that I know of is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

No publisher seal.

72 x 25 cm.