Chikayoshi, Chushingura Komochi-e

Toyohara Chikayoshi (Active 1870 - late 1880) Ichikawa Danjuro as Enya Hangan and Nakamura Sojuo as Oboshi, from the Chushingura, 1878. Oban diptych.

This exciting and unusual print is a type known as komochi-e or trick print. They are hugely unusual and very rare to find in one piece and in such fine condition as this example. The print has four different overlaid pieces of paper (five images) for each of the two heads. Each separate image shows a different actor playing the role of the principal characters. What makes the print even more unusual is that it is by a female artist, Toyohara Chikayoshi. Chikayoshi was a student of Kunichika and this is her best known work. The influence of Kunichika is very evident in the design and composition.

Chikayoshi depicts a scene from the third act of the famous Chushingura. This is  perhaps the most famous drama of kabuki theatre and the real historical characters are still revered today at their shrine and in films, books, plays and cartoons. The true story tells the suicide of Enya Hangan who in 1701 was forced to draw his sword in the Shogun’s palace by the goading  of the courtier Moronao. Hangan is obliged to commit suicide for the offence and his retainers become Ronin, leaderless samurai. They vow revenge and the play describes their plotting and preparation, culminating in the storming of Moronao’s house and his eventual assassination.

The top two portraits (left to right) are Danjuro IX as Hangan preparing to commit suicide and Nakamura Sojuro as Yuranosuke. The underlying portraits on the right are Onoe Kikugoro V, Nakamura Sojuro I, Ichikawa Sadanji and Bando Kakitsu. On the left; Danjuro IX, Onoe Kikugoro V, Nakamura Nakazo and Ichikawa Sadanji I. The names of the actors are listed in the scroll at the top of the design. The crossed feathers in the background are the family crest of Enya Hangan.

A rare and beautifully preserved print in fine condition, fine impression and colour.

37cm x 50cm.