Kunisada, Hakkenden

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Hakkenden, 1836. Oban Triptych.

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A fabulous early triptych by Kunisada relating an incident in the epic and lengthy fantasy novel, The Eight Dog Heroes (Hakkenden). The Hakkenden story begins with the death of Princess Fuse, impregnated by her father’s magical dog and giving birth to eight miraculous balls of light which in turn produce eight sons, all of whom have the syllable inu as part of their surname (in Japanese, inu refers to dog). The eight sons reunite during the course of the play as hero samurai seeking revenge and retribution via a complex story that culminates in a dramatic rooftop fight with a gigantic cat for which the kabuki play is famous.

The three actors here are (reading left to right), Ichikawa Kyuzu, Bando Mitsugoro and Ichikawa Ebizo. The print is very fresh, vital and immediate. The boat, the sails, the rafts and timbers are all drawn with quick strokes and the style owes much to the great theatre prints of Kunisada’s teacher, Toyokuni I. These prints of Kunisada’s that pre-date the introduction of the new dyes and papers have a rare vigour to them. The piece is superbly rendered, colour, condition and impression are all fine. Full size.

Published by Kawatake.