Yoshitaki, Jitsukawa Saburo as Inuma Katsugoro and Arashi Kichisaburo as Takiguchi

Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841 - 1899) Jitsukawa Saburo as Inuma Katsugoro and Arashi Kichisaburo as Takiguchi, 1862. Deluxe Chuban triptych.

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A superb, companion triptych to the previous print. We describe these prints as ‘deluxe’ to distinguish them from the less lavish versions printed from the same blocks which were subject to longer print runs. Deluxe prints - more frequent in Osaka which had smaller, coterie audiences of enthusiasts and patrons - typically were printed onto thicker paper, the inks were more highly pigmented, the number of colours and the number of over printings was greater and there were all manner of special effects used in the production… these might include metallic inks, or hand applied ‘gofun’ for the snow, or hand applied lurid blood spatters. Often the prints had powdered mica scattered on the night sky. These effects were used to enhance the viewer experience. The prints were kept loose or in albums and never in frames. Collectors would like to look at the print, hold it to the light and observe the shimmering surface and the various visual effects.

They are simply astonishing things. We are used to these effects… jaded perhaps because of the prevalence of digital printing. Imagine though the process of creating this triptych… the drawings produced and the exact copy made of the lines by chiselling into a block of hard unforgiving cherry wood. Perhaps as many as a dozen other blocks are made… each carved with staggering subtlety to create the separate colour blocks and then the whole lot are printed with exact and precise registration to be millimetre perfect.

The print here is another version of the story of Oguri Hangan but with different names. The scene depicted was adapted first to the puppet (bunraku) stage and then to the kabuki theatre. It tells the story of Hatsuhana and her husband Katsugoro. Katsugoro’s brother has been killed by the arch-villain Sato Gosuke. They decide to seek vengeance but Katsugoro falls sick on the road and loses the use of his legs. Hatsuhana pulls him the remainder of the way in the homemade cart. They confront Gosuke who has also taken Hatsuhana’s mother as hostage. Unable to fight, Katsugoro is ridiculed by the evil Gosuke who has changed his name to Takiguchi Kozuke and has joined the Hojo clan. Katsugoro sees his wife praying for a miracle at the waterfall shrine nearby but the following morning discovers that she has been beheaded by Takiguchi (along with her mother) for resisting his advances. Katsugoro, miraculously restored to health, realises it was his wife’s ghost he saw praying at he waterfall, constant even in death.

The play here is Hakone Reigen Izari no Adauchi, the scene depicted is likely to be the final act where Katsugoro and his henchman win out over Takiguchi, avenging the murders of Katsugoro's brother Sanpei and wife Hatsuhana.

An outstanding Osaka triptych, deluxe in every respect. Colour, condition and impression are all fine. All three sheets are unbacked, there is deep embossing to the sunrise (an early iteration of the Japanese flag) and embossing to the clouds, snow-covered trees and hills. There is extensive use of metallics and burnishing and the blue robes contains oxidised metallics.

53.5 x 24.5 cm.