Hirosada, Nakamura Tamashichi as Wan Kyu

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Nakamura Tamashichi as Wan Kyu from the drama Chigusa no Midare-zaki, c.1848. Deluxe Chuban

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A rare and outstanding Hirosada that departs from his normal actor portraits.The kabuki actor Tamashichi is depicted painted on a paper lantern with a Toshidama seal of the Utagawa School on the top face. There’s a lot going on here visually: the lantern is pictured in real space and the viewer is encouraged at first glance to see the portrait as applied to the surface of the paper. The staff that Wan Kyu is holding however breaks the illusion and escapes across the page into the real space of the picture. Elsewhere, the billowing kimono, decorated with fish and bamboo, disrupts the left hand side of the light and all of this activity is set against a flattened and decorative pattern in bokashi shading that forms the rear of the picture plane. To add a further note of pictorial illusion, the hook from which the lantern hangs is outside of the shaded background and breaks the confines of the frame, and the body of the lantern is deeply embossed with hoops which do not intrude on the portrait. All in all a visually tricksy piece of work, where you can feel Hirosada playfully teasing the viewer with pictorial games - unusual in Japanese art.

It is nevertheless an actor portrait and it commemorates a performance of the kabuki play Chigusa no Midare-zaki at the Chikugo Theatre in 1848. There are several dances and dramas that concern the character of Wanya Kyubei. The son of a wealthy merchant, he falls in love with the prostitute Mutsuyama. The family disapproves and confine him to a room but he escapes and wanders the countryside having lost his mind. The stories are based on a real man of that name whose grave is in the Jissoji Temple in Osaka.

A rare print in very good condition, fine impression and colour, full size, deeply embossed. Illustrated on p.198 of Schwaab, Osaka Prints, John Murray 1989.

20cm x 26.5cm.