Kunisada, Ichikawa Kodanji IV as Danshichi and Nakayama Ichizo as Giheiji

Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) Ichikawa Kodanji IV as Danshichi and Nakayama Ichizo I as Giheiji in the murder scene (koroshiba) in Mirror of the Chivalrous Commoner and Iris Leaves (Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami), 1855. Large Oban.

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This print is to my mind the central piece of this selection of prints in which we launch the idea of the desperate world of the dekiyo-e. It seems to carry so much weight; it is such an insistent and powerful image and to my mind it demonstrates perfectly the Edo of the mid nineteenth century. Danshichi is a real Edo everyman… a fishmonger, Danshichi is the archetype of the Osaka otokodate. The role was based on a real man, a fishmonger in the city of Sakai, who killed somebody in the middle of winter in 1697. The dead body was hidden in the snow and discovered in Spring, after the melting of the snow. This event was dramatized for the first time in 1698 by the Kamigata star Kataoka Nizaemon I, who played the leading role of Danshichi. Then, half a century later, Danshichi became the hero of Natsu Matsuri Naniwa Kagami in 1745. It contains the most famous  and spectacular murder scene (the one pictured here in this print) in kabuki - that is, the murder of Mikawaya Giheiji by his son-in-law Danshichi.

In the numerous plays and dances, Danshichi remains the desperate man: here is a character who haplessly tries to do the right thing but for whom the fates, the authorities, other people, his rivals, his employers and his family are continually frustrating him. He is an emblem of frustration and of plans gone wrong. This is why he is such an Edo everyman. His travails are those of the desperate urban dweller, scrabbling for money to pay the rent, desperate to find love, family and stability in a rat-race city where there is not enough of anything to go round.

In this simply fabulous print, we see the famous murder of Danshichi’s father in law, Giheiji. Typically Danshichi has again been humiliated and insulted. He grapples with his opponent, they fall in a pile of mud, the actor must strike thirteen separate poses before he washes himself down with a bucket of water. Behind him we see the orange lanterns of a passing festival, itself a symbol of the alienation of the city.

Fine impression, color, condition, with margins on top and left. Over large oban size.

Published by Izuya Sankichi.

37cm x 26cm