Hirosada, Nakamura Daikichi III as Umegawa

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Nakamura Daikichi III as Umegawa from Stories of Loyalty and Family Devotion c.1848. Osaka Chuban.

It is unusual to see single chuban prints by Hirosada with scenic views which makes this print an interesting diversion. Hirosada pictures a scene from Stories of Loyalty and Family Devotion - Osaka print production was all but terminated by the aggressive censorship laws imposed as part of the Tempo Reforms. It was possible to make theatre prints whereby the subject matter alluded to non-theatrical events, but the legislature of Osaka was notoriously stricter than their Edo counterparts.

This print shows the prostitute Umegawa from the famous kabuki drama Courier of Hell (Meido no hikyaku). The story tells of the courier Chubei and his love for Umegawa, a prostitute of the Osaka pleasure quarter. A rival client has offered to buy her freedom in exchange for marriage, Chubei cannot afford to match the sum and steals money from the samurai whose transaction he is carrying, an offence punishable by death. Chubei’s friend and the owner of the brothel witness his actions and urge them both to leave. They make for the mountains together but die of cold three days later, an scene represented on stage by a long and elaborate dance.

Hirosada pictures a wistful Umegawa, staring out of a window at the scene of her future death. I cannot say who the old man in the distance is meant to represent. It could be the samurai whose money is stolen or more likely, the figure may represent an old man, to give the impression of devotion from a daughter and thereby avoid the attention of the censor - hence the wholly inappropriate title of the series.

It is a finely drawn piece by one of the best and most underrated Japanese artists of all time. An unusual snow scene and affecting portrait of tragedy. The impression and colour are fine. the condition is very good aside from some slight toning.

18cm x 26cm.