Hasegawa Sadanobu (1808 - 1879) Nakamura Utaemon IV as Echigo Jishi (a Lion Dancer) and as a Palace Servant from the series Renowned Dances of Seven Changes, 1838. Oban.
Sadanobu was an important figure in the Osaka cultural scene whose career spanned all the significant periods and events of the mid century. Earlier pieces such as this, betray the lingering Utagawa influence of Toyokuni I and the growing influence of the vital Utagawa School of Kunisada, of which Sadanobu was a de facto member. His later career is characterised by landscapes that owe a great deal to Hiroshige.
The print above is a fine piece that retains most of the archaic qualities of earlier prints - it is oban format and is coloured with traditional vegetable inks rather than the soon to be universal foreign dyes that were in use in Edo by this time. Once again we are looking at the Utaemon clan; this time Nakamura Utaemon IV, dancing a piece from a seven part dance cycle, similar to the series by Hirosada of the Six Immortal Poets. In this piece, the actor was required to perform several quick change roles: Shoki the Demon Queller, A Courtesan and Blind Masseur among others and this piece - Echigo Jishi (a Lion Dancer) and a Palace Servant.
Echigo-jishi, or "The Echigo Lion," is a solo dance piece. The character is a travelling entertainer from Echigo named Kakubei, who dances an Echigo folk dance version of the Lion Dance for an imagined audience. The 21-minute piece is extremely sparse on narrative, lacking any spoken dialogue, but some narrative outline is provided by indications in the dance itself, the character's entrance and exit, and the lyrics of the accompanying song. These relate something about Kakubei's identity, his life, and his wife. A small hand drum is worn horizontally at the belt, directly in front, and struck as part of a dance with humorous, acrobatic, and ceremonial/auspicious elements. The normal, Edo version of the dance differs in the stage props, whereby long red wigs are used as well as other devices. The dance was performed in the year of Utaemon III’s death.
Full size oban, mounted on card, slightly toned with age but colour and impression are fine. A copy of this print is in the MFA Boston collection.
Signed Hasegawa Sadanobu ga, published by Honya Seishichi.