Hirosada, Horiguchi Gentazaemon and Tamiya Botaro

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Horiguchi Gentazaemon and Tamiya Botaro, 1848. Deluxe Chuban.

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There are two other prints in this selection that are derived from the same kabuki drama, A Child's Revenge - the title belies the grimness of the story. A true story, it is based on a vendetta carried out by a youth, Tamiya Botaro. Botaro’s father, Tamiya Genpachiro, is a fencing master. His rival Hori Gentazaemon, is so in fear of the superior skills of Botaro’s father that he kills him by subterfuge. The child is orphaned and brought up by the nursemaid in Shido Temple where he was advised by his uncle to behave as if deaf and dumb in order to throw off his enemies. His nurse Otsuji believed he was really mute and prayed with ritual ablutions to the god Konpira in order that he may regain his speech and become skilled at arms in order to avenge his father's killer. In the play, Otsuji went on to commit suicide as an act of sacrifice, dying in the knowledge that Botaro could speak and that his martial skills would enable him to achieve his revenge, even while still a child. Yoshitoshi made the definitive version of the story, so influential at the time that the kabuki stage was altered in order to accomodate his vision of the scene. He accomplishes his revenge at the age of eighteeen.

This print is astonishingly good. I can find no record of it in Hirosada catalogues and given the striking composition, the print is possibly unknown - it would I am sure be reproduced extensively if it were known. The depiction is straightforward enough… on the left is the skillful and vengeful Botaro and on the right the wicked murderer of his father Horiguchi Gentazaemon. They are fighting to the death in front of a wicket fence. The fence device (it is tempting to see a pun on the word fence here but there is none), cuts off the picture plane and pushes us, the viewers, back from the action. The device is unknown to me in either Osaka or Edo prints - the nearest image I can bring to mind is the Patrick Caulfield screen print I’ll Take My Life Monotonous of 1973. There’s nothing monotonous about this print. The daring and originality of its conception - screening the dimunitive hero behind the obscuring fence, the sparseness of the composition, and the beauty of the colours and the outstanding printing make it a rare and very desirable print.

Colour, condition and impression are all very fine.

18cm x 25cm.