Hirosada, Kataoka Ichizo as Akaimura Shitenoji

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Kataoka Ichizo as Akaimura Shitenoji from the play Shitennoji garan kagami, 1849. Deluxe Chuban.

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The title of the play in this terrific print translates as “The Monastic Mirror at the Temple of the Four Guardian Kings”. There are a number of prints by Hirosada of the subject; this portrait of the actor Kataoka Ichizo as Akaimura Shitenoji is less well known. Based on actual events, the play tells the story of rivalry between two courtiers following the death of the emperor Yomei in the year 587. Historically, Soga no Umako and Mononobe no Moriya (Umako Daijin and Umaya Daijin in the play) each supported a different prince to succeed Yomei. The character in the print is a retainer of the villain, Umaya and is at odds with his own, more honourable brother Kijumaru. Their father, Ono no Imoko is obliged to intervene. The play was performed in March 1849 to celebrate the 233rd anniversary of the founding of Shitennoji, the first Buddhist temple in Osaka.

This is a fine tour de force of design by Hirosada. Seemingly every detail is considered in an almost pedantic method… the exquisite detailing to the face and eyes which convey the ruthlessness of the character and the astonishing mass of hair which flows in the wake of the actor’s thrusting gesture. Note also the delicate ‘shudder’ marks on the lead edge of the hair, designed to soften the edge and convey forward, radical motion. Against this masterly characterisation, Hirosada lays the flattened and chaotic patterns of armour and the tightly knotted hands that grasp the hilt of the sword, adding to the sense of urgency and action. A great print.

Full size with margins, printed on thick hosho paper. Very fine colour and impression, the surface is littered with encrusted mica and silver metallics. Condition is fine, some slight yellowing to margins.

Published by Kawaoto, signed Hirosada.

25cm x 18cm.