Hirosada, Mimasu Daigoro IV as the Playwright Namiki Shozo

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Mimasu Daigoro IV as the Playwright Namiki Shozo in the play Homeless Danshichi: an Umbrella in the Rain, 1851. Deluxe Chuban Triptych

The author of the standard text on Hirosada (Hirosada, Osaka Printmaker), Roger Keyes, describes this triptych as ‘one of Hirosada’s finest night scenes…’ It is an extraordinary print. The composition; the mastery of the space over three sheets; the deft handling of the nocturnal shades; the quality of the printing (the layered tones of the background are deep and velvety); the outstanding drawing of the central figure make this an exceptional piece. It is also a very extraordinary play… unprecedented in some respects and strangely prefiguring avante-garde theatre pieces of the late twentieth century. All of this makes for an intriguing and very gratifying print.

There are several versions of the play and several plays with the character Danshichi as the lead. In all productions, Danshichi is a dishonoured man, earning his living as a fish-monger because of his losing of a valuable sword belonging to his master, a samurai. He intends to retrieve it and the certificate of authenticity but this is complicated by his rival Kazuemon who wants not only the sword but also Danshichi’s lover, the courtesan Tomi (Otomi). In this version of the play, the authors have inserted the actual playwright Namiki Shozo I (1730 - 1773) as a central character. Keyes describes the action in the closing scenes, where Danshichi has recovered the sword but fails to see the role that his lover has played in it:

At the moment that Danshichi is about to strike Tomi, a crowd appears led by Namiki Shozo, the author of the play. Shozo remonstrates with [Danshichi], begging him to be patient and control his temper. As the author, he is aware that Tomi’s estrangement is  only feigned, that the heirloom sword will be recovered through her self-sacrificing efforts... He knows, in other words, that the story has a happy ending. He cannot say this however; nor can he control the actions of his character who now displays a life and will of his own. (Keyes, Hirosada: Osaka Printmaker, UAM/CSULB 1984 p. 117.)

Danshichi, who in the original play has tattooed himself to control his temper, runs amok, killing many people before taking his own life. The original play is about the virtues of self control - of maintaining one’s temper. This later version seems to be a compelling interrogation of theatre as theatre in the modern sense. The print shows Otomi, (Nakayama Nanshi II) on the left, the ubiquitous Nakamura IV in the centre as Danshichi and Mimasu Daigoro IV as the Playwright Namiki Shozo on the right. It is interesting to note that despite the fabulous composition, Hirosada keeps to the convention of giving each character their own space on a single sheet.

This is an outstanding print, the quality of the printing is outstanding. Colour, impression and condition are pristine.

55cm x 25cm.