Hironobu, Selection from the Five Elements

Hironobu (ca 1851 - 1872?) Selection from the Five Elements, 1866.  Chuban Diptych.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

This terrific diptych, beautifully drawn and printed and having the jewel like quality of the best of the late Osaka prints, is somewhat enigmatic. It appears to be the work of Hirosada in its draughtsmanship, and of Yoshitaki in its design and use of colour. It is in fact by the little known artist Hironobu, of whom almost nothing is known, other than that he was a pupil of the great Hirosada.

It seems likely that the diptych is from a series on the five elements, although only these two prints are known and always appear as a pair. The print on the left, represents earth, the print on the right, fire. They are a kind of mitate - prints that represent something other than what they appear to depict. Both prints show mythological scenes from the lives of Sengoku period (1467 - 1603) warriors. They are also portraits of actors in imaginary roles. The attributes of each warrior are then chosen to represent one of the five elements… complicated stories within stories as is typical of the mid century.

Reading from left to right the actors and characters are as follows: Nakamura Jakuemon I as Wada Kaminari Hachiro; Jitsukawa Yaozo I as Mokuta Shinpei; Arashi Hinosuke VII as Hosokawa Katsumoto. The print is in fine condition with exciting and brilliant colours. The impression is excellent.

36cm x 25cm.