Ashiyuki, Arashi Rikan II as Yukie

Gigado Ashiyuki (active. 1813 - 1833) Arashi Rikan II as Yukie, in the play Igagoe Dochu Sugoroku, 1826. Oban Diptych.

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Ashiyuki was a very great and influential Osaka artist of the early nineteenth century. This is a rare find - a complete oban diptych. The individual sheets are known, but it is very rare to find the complete diptych so well preserved. Ashiyuki’s early career stalled in 1819 and was partly revived by the appearance in Osaka of the kabuki actor Arashi Kitsusaburo II in 1822. Kitsusaburo, who would change his name to Arashi Rikan II became a star to rival Utaemon the III and Ashiyuki devoted the greater part of his second career to recording many of the actor’s performances, (as here).

There is much to look at in this print… it shows act II of the play - the assassination of Wada Yukie (Rikan II) by Sawai Matagoro. We see the hapless Wada taken unawares by his wicked assailant. The style here is all archaic Osaka and the stylised perspective that owes something to traditional painting also shows the influence of Toyokuni I. Ashiyuki drops his figures into the axonometric space carved out by the box-like perspective. The background is a painted screen, the foreground steps probably form part of the stage design. The play concerns the affairs of the Uesugi clan and the vendetta over a stolen sword. Fascinatingly, the poster that advertises a 1970 production of the play uses the same pose albeit in modernist clothes. The word sugoroku in the title refers to a traditional Japanese game similar to snakes and ladders. Many of these games were centered around the stages of the Tokaido road. The vendetta in this drama is a long chase along the Tokaido with scenes taken from various of the post stations.

Ashiyuki was an important and influential artist after 1823. This superb diptych comes from the beginning of his career revival and records a performance that marked out Rikan II as a major talent. The print is in very good condition, colour and impression are fine.

52.5 x 32 cm.