Hirosada, Nakamura Tamashichi I as Takamatsu Saichi

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Nakamura Tamashichi I as Takamatsu Saichi, 1852. Chuban.

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This print is from an occasional series that Hirosada made in 1852 to commemorate a play about the wildly popular villain, anti-hero, popular vagabond… Nippon Daemon. Nippon Daemon was modelled after an actual thief who caused havoc on the Tokaido Road, the main road that connected Kyoto and Edo (modern-day Tokyo), during the mid-18th century. Since he did not kill unnecessarily, he often appears as a character in kabuki who does not commit immoral crimes, although he does steal.  

Daemon’s most popular appearance is the drama, Benten Kozo. The play is frequently known by a number of other names. The name Benten Kozo refers to the main character of the play, a gizoku ("honourable thief"), one of a band of five such men.

Another common name for this play is Shiranami Gonin Otoko ("Five Men of the White Waves"), shiranam being a term used to refer to thieves. Like most traditional Japanese dramas, the play originally had five acts, following particular conventions as to the dramatic pattern and themes of each act. However, today, it is very common to perform only one or two acts, each combination of acts represented by a different play title. For example, the title Benten Musume Meo no Shiranami refers to the performance of Acts III and/or IV without the other three.

The play tells the story of  five thieves, based on real thieves and criminals of the Edo period in Osaka: Karigane Bunshichi, An no Heibei, Gokuin Sen'emon, Kaminari Shokuro and Hotei Ichiemon. The name of Nippon Daemon, the leader of the band, is taken from that of Nippon Saemon, who was captured and executed in 1747. The character of Benten Kozō, meanwhile, is said to have been based upon a servant at the Iwamoto-in temple, an island dedicated to the goddess Benten.

The play that this print derives from, Totomigata Koi no Shiranami is one such derivation from the original story. The print is breathtaking… The design, characterisation and drawing are outstanding but what really impresses here and in the other print from the series, is the colouring which is sublime. Due to the pristine condition of the piece, the colour remains undimmed… the delicate greys and browns and blues forming a tremendous harmony.

Colour, impression and condition are all fine. The print is unbacked and on thick, deluxe paper.

28 x 24 cm.

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