Hirosada, Nakayama Nanshi as Onnagata

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Nakayama Nanshi as Onnagata, 1849. Deluxe Chuban.

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This is a very fine deluxe chuban of the actor Nakayama Nanshi II in the role of an onnagata. Perhaps the most surprising feature of actor prints is that despite the apparent beauty and seductiveness of the actress, all of the female roles in kabuki were played by men, or onnagata as they are known. This tradition of male-only roles stems from the seventeenth century and still applies today, in modern kabuki performance. Nakayama Nanshi 1790 - 1858, was a popular and talented Osaka onnagata actor, he was known to perform any kind of female role and was considered by many to be the last of the great Kamigata onnagata of the Edo period.

The print is typical of the chubans of the later part of Hirosada’s career. The drawing is fine, sparse and economical. The abstraction devoted to the representation of the hands and the neck are studied and clean and the overwhelming pattern of flowers that adorn the kimono anchor the whole design to the lower right corner. These extraordinary prints - of which there are only a few hundred, are some of the best designed and most elegant of nineteenth century portraits. For so many years they have sailed beneath the radar of connoisseurs, but one must surely assume that such exquisite and delicate pieces… so bold in their creation and yet so modest and delicate in their restraint, will be acknowledged for the rare and great art that they are.

The print is a superb impression - deeply embossed, and printed in silver and metallics. The colour is as new and the condition overall is very fine. There are some repaired wormholes at the bottom left and the top right margin.

18cm x 25cm.