Kunichika, 100 Roles of Baiko - Gonpachi

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) One Hundred Roles of Baiko: Onoe Kikugoro V as Gonpachi, 1893. Oban.

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The last few years of the nineteenth century are really dominated by Tohohara Kunichika who died in 1900. He was the last of the great ukiyo-e artists and the last link to the past. He helped to reinvigorate the genre and to keep the waning public interest in kabuki theatre alive. This print is from a series celebrating one hundred performances by the great kabuki star Onoe Kikugoro V, known to his fans as Baiko. In it we see the superb and expressive portrait of Baiko wrestling an opponent in the main panel and a supporting role played by that other great figure of the kabuki stage, Ichikawa Danjuro IX, carrying a lantern in the upper cartouche.

Gonpachi was a Ronin - a leaderless samurai and street tough. He rescues a girl from the inn of some bandits in return for her warning him that he is to be robbed that night. Later, in the Yoshiwara district he finds the same girl, the daughter of humble grocers, now working as a prostitute in order to keep her elderly parents. Gonpachi, unable to help her this time turns to crime and the play shows how he loses his chivalrous spirit and becomes a murderer - robbing for money to visit the brothel where he sees his lover. Unable to live with himself he commits suicide.

This wonderful print from the series is in pristine condition. The first deluxe edition has liberal scatterings of mica powder to the background and applied lacquer and burnishing to the black areas. Fine impression, edition and colour. Fine condition.

Signed Toyohara Kunichika hitsu. Published by Fukuda Kumajiro.