Hirosada, Sawamura Kito as Ohan

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Sawamura Kito as Ohan, c.1850. Chuban.

This show opens with a superb actor print from around 1850 by the most well known of the Osaka School artists, Konishi Hirosada. It depicts a head and shoulders portrait of  the kabuki actor Sawamura Kito in an onnagata role as the young girl Ohan from the play Katsuragawa Renri no Shigarami and commemorates a performance at the Chikugo no shibai theatre in Osaka in 1848. The style of drawing, the smaller chuban format, the outstanding print quality all identify it as an Osaka print. Most of all with these prints, however, there is  the extraordinary insight of the portrait. It is the economy of line and the depth of understanding that is outstanding in all these prints. Whilst the drawing style remains consistent, the character study reveals some of the most sensitive and penetrating observations in Japanese art if not anywhere in the world.

In this print it is the hesitance of the gesture, the delicacy of the hand, the grip of the fingers and the gentleness of the expression which communicate the character, whilst remaining the likeness of a well known (and recognisable) male actor.

The drama (sometimes known by the shorter name Obiya) tells of the Obiya fabric business, and the adopted heir (Choemon) to the fortune who is preyed upon by the unscrupulous widowed step-mother and half brother. On a trip to a shrine, the evil apprentice Chokichi pursues the fourteen year old Ohan who escapes into the adopted son’s room and falls in love with him. Back home, Choemon confronts the persecution of his adoptive family, the loss of his valuable sword and the misery of his love for Ohan and decides to commit suicide. Meanwhile, discovering that she is pregnant by Chokichi, Ohan drops a letter revealing her intention to drown herself that night. Finding the letter and in despair, Choemon runs after her - his intention, to join her in a shinjumono (a lovers' double suicide).

A fine print with delicate bokashi shading in mint condition. Fine colour and impression. Untrimmed.

A copy of the print is in the Philadelphia Museum

A copy of the print is in the Naprstek Museum Prague.

25 x 18 cm.