Yoshitaki, Actors in Toryu Oguri Hangan

Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841 - 1899) Jitsukawa Saburo as Oguri Hangan in  Toryu Oguri Hangan, 1862. Deluxe Chuban triptych.

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These very rich Osaka School prints are a miracle of woodblock printing. Beautiful, pigment-heavy colours, rich designs and overprinting, embossing, hand applied snow, burnished patterns, touches of silver and bronze inks… no expense was spared. Osaka artists were specialists in deluxe printing; the print runs were very short, the standards were without parallel and the clients for these jewel box prints often commissioned the deluxe versions like this example for themselves and their close circle of kabuki aficionados.

The print is not recorded anywhere - testament to it’s being privately commissioned - and because of moral censorship laws there is very little written information on the print itself. Nevertheless, the print shows a performance of  the play Toryu Oguri Hangan. The story has some basis in truth, and many plays were written for the puppet and kabuki stage, each with its own bizarre and exaggerated twist. Kabuki21 has this to say about the background…

Oguri Hangan Daisukeshige (1398~1464) was the son of a provincial lord who had been dispossessed of his estates by the Ashikaga clan. He led an extremely adventurous life when young, but eventually settled down. He was famous for his horsemanship and was reputed to be able to make a horse stand with all four hooves on a go board. A legend was born, related to Hangan's real adventures. In the original legend, Oguri was born to an aristocratic family in Kyôto, only to be driven from his home. He wandered through the country, finally ending up at the mansion of a man named Daizen in Hitachi, one of the distant provinces in the east. Daizen's daughter Terute fell in love with Oguri, but Daizen first tries to kill him with a wild horse, then with poisoned wine. In the end, he ends up horribly deformed and half-dead, already almost part of the world beyond. But people faithfully believing in a miracle believed that pulling him on a cart to a holy shrine would heal him. Finally, after tremendous efforts by Terute, he reaches a waterfall in the sacred land of Kumano and is restored to life.

The print shows Hangan in the left-hand sheet, Terute-hime in the right and her father, played by Arashi Kichisaburo in the centre sheet. Colour and impression are very fine. Hand applied snow, which has slightly oxidised and metallics and embossing throughout. Condition fine, a repaired wormhole to the lower left sheet. Full-size with margins, unbacked. A superb, deluxe Osaka print of very high quality. 

54 x 24.5 cm.