Hirosada, Arashi Rikaku II as the ghost of Koheiji

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Arashi Rikaku II as the ghost of Koheiji, 1840’s. Chuban.

This is a very fine and rare print by the Osaka artist Konishi Hirosada. It depicts the ghost of Kohata Koheiji who, having been tortured and drowned by his unfaithful wife Otowa and her scheming lover, takes revenge upon them from beyond the grave. Koheiji is played by the kabuki actor Arashi Rikaku II. Revenge plays of this sort were hugely popular and often depicted evil women called akuba. This play, A Mysterious Tale of Revenge at Asaka Marsh, was so popular with audiences that a sequel was commissioned.

This is an unusually expressive portrait; the blue makeup and dishevelled hair identifying the character as a vengeful ghost. The foreshortening of the child’s head is extremely unusual in ukiyo-e drawing.

A strange twist, given the subject of this role, is that the actor portrayed here, Arashi Rikaku II, was the adoptive father of Arashi Rikaku III, himself imprisoned for his part in the poisoning his lover’s mistress. His lover, Yoarashi Okinu, was what audiences would refer to as an akuba. She administered the poison after becoming pregnant by Rikaku. She was eventually arrested in May 1871 and decapitated in 1872. Rikaku was released from prison in 1874 and adopted the stage name Ichikawa Gonjuro II becoming the disciple of Ichikawa Danjuro IX. 

A fine print in excellent condition, trimmed slightly at the right hand edge, otherwise fine colour and fine impression.

This print is also in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

22cm x 16cm.