Hirosada, Gokumon Shobei and Kurofune Chuemon

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Gokumon Shobei and Kurofune Chuemon, 1850. Deluxe Chuban Diptych.

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By 1850, the mature style of Osaka artists is impossible to confuse with their Edo comrades. Hirosada’s confident work of these years is bold and daring as in this print. The diptych, which is printed in the nocturnal colours that Hirosada favoured for these scenes, is masterfully produced. The shading of the night sky and turbid river is dense and threatening, a density which was never convincingly achieved in Edo. The remaining colours of the actors are equally dense and contrast exquisitely with the greys and browns of the background.

The scene is from one of the many plays at the time that deal with the chivalrous commoner Kurofune Chuemon, seen here on the left sheet. The plays and stories grew out of a real incident in Osaka in the early eighteenth century, when a local hero named Nezu Shiroemon confronted the extortionist Gokumon Shobei on Shinmachi Bridge and forced him to return the money he had extorted from the population.

I find it fascinating, given how undervalued the great artists of Osaka are by academics, that the composition of the scene is very similar to that of Kuniyoshi’s treatment of the same subject, but from two years later. Once again, we see the profound influence of the Osaka printmakers on Edo.

A lovely diptych, joined at the seam and backed by Japanese album paper. Colour, impression and condition are all fine.

37 x 26 cm.