Sadanobu, Ichikawa Ebizo in the role of Kumagai Jiro

Hasegawa Sadanobu (ca 1809 - 1879) The Five Confucian Cardinal Virtues (Ichikawa Ebizô V in the role of Kumagai Jirô), 1848. Deluxe Chuban.

This fine deluxe print is from a series by Sadanobu called Gojo no uchi or Gi or the Five Confucian Cardinal Virtues. The Tenpo reforms were still biting in Osaka and more or less killing the production of prints. These moralising reforms attempted to close the kabuki theatres and to outlaw any prints other than those that espoused citizenship, morality and good conduct - specifically banning actor prints or the naming of actors. As a consequence the artists were obliged to come up with uncontroversial subject matter that just happened to portray actors identifiable by their faces in roles that were recognised by their attributes. The kabuki-going public had no problem reading the visual clues and the authorities were  meant to be satisfied by these supposedly anodyne titles - this print being a case in point.

Here Sadanobu has illustrated one of the five Confucian virtues. What it actually illustrates is the warrior Kumagai Jiro, a thirteenth century samurai known for his courage in the Genpei Wars. He is famous for beheading a young prince, Atsumori who reminds him of his own son, and it was only with great regret that he carried out the deed. Haunted by his actions, he took to the monastic life and became a renowned instructor of Pure Land Buddhism. In the play Ichi-no-Tani Futaba Gunki, the drama is increased by the self sacrifice of Kumagai’s own son Kojiro, who has substituted himself in Atsumori’s armour to satisfy a debt of honour.

This is a very good pre-production deluxe print, very fine colours and printed with gold metal pigments and embossing, generally very fine condition. The bright spot at lower left is a block flaw and appears in all known copies of the print.

The print is also in the collection of the University of Kansei.

23cm x 17cm.