Hirosada, Tales of Courage, Loyalty and Piety - Arashi Sanemon IX as Princess Karatsuchi

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Tales of Courage, Loyalty and Piety: Arashi Sanemon IX as Princess Karatsuchi in Sangoku daiichi nochi no kusemono, 1848. Chuban.

Hirosada actor portraits are among the best art of the nineteenth century. It is disappointing that academics have failed so significantly to recognise these chuban large head portraits for their outstanding quality, their insight and their delicate brevity. Over recent years there has been a gradual acknowledgement of these fine portraits in exhibitions and publications but, luckily for the collector,  prices do not yet reflect the subtle beauty of these prints.

The three portrait heads in this exhibition are notable for their very fine condition. All three are superbly preserved and give a very good sense of how these pieces would have looked at the time that they were issued.

Osaka, with its tradition of actor portraits, suffered particularly from the Tenpo Reforms of the 1840’s, which effectively banned the promotion or sale of kabuki prints. Osaka print production was very nearly extinguished as a result but artists, especially Hirosada found ways round the edicts. This print,  is typical of the artist’s efforts to avoid the ban. Although this is a print of a famous actor in a famous play, the print itself carries no information in the cartouche such as the actor’s name nor the identity of the role. The public would have recognised both of these immediately through the likeness and other visual clues.

The play in this case is called A Tale of India and is one of a number of plays that were written following the published account of a real Edo sailor who travelled outside of Japan and returned with fantastical tales of strange creatures, peoples, lands and intrigues. Here we see Arashi Sanemon in an onnagata role and dressed as a Chinese princess.

A fine chuban print with strong impression, colour and fine condition.

25cm x 18cm.