Hirosada, The Village School Scene from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) The Village School Scene from Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, 1848. Chuban tetraptych.

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This is a very well preserved, unbacked four sheet print by Hirosada of a very well known kabuki drama, Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami, sometimes known as The Village School

The story is, to our modern sensibilities really horrific. The play is one of many about the great historical character of the politician, Sugawara no Michizane, later known as the transmogrified thunder god, Kan Shojo. Michizane has fallen from grace and has placed his son under the protection of his former protege and now village school master Takebe Genzo. A magistrate arrives requiring that Michizane’s son be immediately beheaded and the head taken back in a box. All are horrified, and Genzo contrives to substitute Michizane’s son with a new boy who has arrived at the school, Kotaro.

The dramatic scene pictured in Hirosada’s print shows Genzo’s wife Tonami at left, looking on in horror. The schoolmaster is in the second sheet, having beheaded the child, while Matsuomaru a place official who has travelled with the magistrate and the evil Genba are in sheet three and four.

The gruesome ‘head box’ sits in front of Matsuomaru. What happens next after this dramatic moment is that Matsuomaru delves into the box revealing the head of his own child whom he has sent to the school as a sacrifice for his secret loyalty to Michizane. The dramatic climax is when, removing the head he shows no emotion but says clearly, this is the head of Kan Shusai (Michizane’s son). The magistrate and and the evil Genba retire satisfied and the plot to substitute boys is revealed amid great joy over the honour and bravery that has been shown.

The print is a fine four sheet Osaka theatre print of a famous and dramatic scene. The interplay of distant scene and complex spatial design is tremendous. Colour, condition and impression are all fine. Unbacked and unattached. A contemporary repair to the lower left second sheet.

72 x 25 cm.