Kunisada and Hiroshige, Famous Restaurants from the Eastern Capital - Kozakura

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) and Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) Famous Restaurants from the Eastern Capital: Kozakura in Honcho I-chome, 1852. Oban.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

A very lovely and delicate collaboration between Hiroshige - responsible for the landscape and the still life - and Kunisada who drew the portraits. This quite large series was commissioned by the publisher Fujiokaya Keijiro, presumably funded by the participating restaurants. As in many of the prints in this exhibition, the subject of the print is obscured by the habit (by this date) rather than the necessity of censorship. So it is that the portrait here is not named, although the fanatical Edo followers of kabuki theatre would easily have recognised the actor Iwai Hanshiro VI in the famous role of Shirai Gonpachi.

Gonpachi was a Ronin - a leaderless samurai and street tough. He rescues a girl from the inn of some bandits in return for her warning him that he is to be robbed that night. Later, in the Yoshiwara district he finds the same girl, the daughter of humble grocers, now working as a prostitute in order to keep her elderly parents. Gonpachi, unable to help her this time turns to crime and the play shows how he loses his chivalrous spirit and becomes a murderer - robbing for money to visit the brothel where he sees his lover. Unable to live with himself he commits suicide.

The two cartouches are drawn in the manner of harimaze, small prints designed to be cut out and pasted on screens and suchlike. Here they give the impression of being stuck to the print. The print is finely drawn, beautifully printed with outstanding and delicate colouration. Colour, impression and condition are all fine.

Signed Toyokuni ga and Hiroshige. Published by Fujiokaya Keijiro.

25cm x 36cm.