Masunobu, Actors in Role as the Soga Brothers

Utagawa Masunobu (active 1849 - 1867) Actors in Role as the Soga Brothers, 1860’s. Deluxe Chuban Diptych.

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This lovely pair of prints are by the little-known Osaka artist Masanobu. Almost nothing is known about him other than that he was active in Osaka in the 1860’s, he worked in the manner of Hirosada and his followers, and was a pupil of Kunimasu. The work shows much of the subdued elegance that one would expect of his circle. His signature appears in a red cartouche on the right hand sheet, and in the same silver caligraphy as the roles in the left hand sheet.

This diptych appears to be a mitate (puzzle picture) and the subject matter is likely to be that of the vengeful Soga Brothers. Jitsukawa Ensaburo plays Juro Sukenari on the left and Kataoka Gado II his brother Goro Tokimune on the right; the prints show each holding a torch aloft against a dense night background. There is an air of stealth in the poses, something that is reinforced by the straw camouflaged coats that they both wear. One is put in mind here of a Kuniyoshi print that shows Suzuki Shigeyuki creeping through snow covered reeds at night.  They are beautiful and calm works of art that repay quiet contemplation. Both sheets are illustrated in half page detail on p.197 of Osaka Prints by Dean M Schwaab, John Murray 1989.

Fine pieces, colour, impression and condition are all fine.

37 x 25 cm.