Hirosada, Onoe Kikugoro III as Nikki Danjo

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Onoe Kikugoro III as Nikki Danjo from the play Azuma Miyage Date no Hinagata, 1848. Deluxe Chuban.

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A rare and exceptional Hirosada of the necromancer and villain, Nikki Danjo. The palimpsest design is of course outstanding. We see the portrait of the superstar actor Onoe Kikugoro III looking vengeful; on the page behind him in the lower left a shinka (spirit flame) signifying the presence of the supernatural. Kikugoro was a hugely popular star of kabuki and an Edo actor, unusually though he made several appearances in Osaka in the late 1840’s

Whilst the plot of this play seems lost - relatively few Osaka plays have survived compared to Edo versions - plays abound which feature the dangerous character of Danjo. It is interesting to compare the design of this print to Edo representations where he is always shown as tall and entirely grey… this more human representation is unusual and very interesting… a good illustration in fact of the fact that Osaka theatre was very much less melodramatic than Edo.

The story here is a kabuki drama of palace intrigue made wildly popular by the central character, the almost pantomime, brilliant Danjo, who manages to appear in clouds of smoke and disappear likewise, finally transforming into a magical rat. The child Tsuruchiyo has become head of the clan. He is kept in the women’s quarters and looked after by a nurse maid (Masaoka) for fear of assassination. The palace chatelaine and her brother Nikki Danjo plot to kill the young prince. In a moving scene Masaoka’s young son is killed in error but such is her devotion that she shows no emotion and continues the fiction that it is in fact Tsuruchiyo who lies dead. As a result she is handed a scroll with the names of the conspirators. Her true loyalty is finally discovered and a fight ensues which sees a gigantic rat appear on stage and run off with the scroll in its teeth.

The final scene is a classic of kabuki drama. A servant spots the rat and attacks it; it escapes but dramatically re-emerges through a trapdoor in the hanamichi (the stage extension into the theatre audience) in the true form of Nikki Danjo and carrying the scroll in his mouth. He exits the stage as if walking magically on clouds.

Colour, impression and condition are all fine, the print is unbacked. Exquisite, almost painterly quality to the flames, which I have not seen before. The bokashi shading to the robe is exceptionally done and there is deep gold embossing to the curled poem slip.

17 x 25 cm.