Hirosada, The Story of Oshichi

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) The Story of Oshichi from Shochikubai Yushima no Kakegaku, 1840’s. Deluxe Chuban.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

An unusual format owing much to the Utagawa School in its formal divisions of the page into actor portrait, landscape cartouche and text block. The prints illustrates an onnagata actor playing the role of Yaoya Oshichi. Oshichi was a young greengrocer's daughter born in 1667, whose family took refuge in a temple following one of the frequent Tokyo (Edo) fires. There she met and fell in love with a temple page, Kichisa. Oshichi thought that if she started another fire she would be able to shelter longer and stay with the boy she loved. Sadly, her arson was witnessed by others and she was found guilty and burnt at the stake as punishment. There was subsequently a great deal of sympathy for the fate of the girl, principally because of her age. The kabuki drama was based on her life and death; however the circumstances were changed to show Oshichi sounding the temple fire alarm in order to see Kichisa. The conclusion remained the same since the false sounding of the alarm was also punishable by death.

The theme of someone dying for love was popular amongst Edo audiences and there were novels, plays and dances based on her tragic and youthful folly. Her grave remains at the Enji-ji Temple and people still bring gifts of fruit and vegetables to this day.

Hirosada shows the tragic Oshichi gazing in love into the distance. In her left hand she holds a mallet - the gong is visible in the left upper cartouche inside the wooden tower. She is holding onto the tower support with her right hand. The clouds (of smoke presumably) and Hirosada’s signature are printed in bronze ink.

There is a suggestion that this print represents Kawasaki Station from an unknown Tokaido Road series, and whilst the format is suggestive I think that this interpretation is unlikely.

The print is full size, colour and impression are fine and the condition is very good.

25cm x 17cm.