Sadanobu, Jitsukawa Ensaburo as Jiraiya

Hasegawa Sadanobu (1808 - 1879) Jitsukawa Ensaburo as Jiraiya, 1854. Chuban.

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This beautiful deluxe chuban by the highly regarded Osaka artist Sadanobu, is a companion to the other print on this page. Both pieces commemorate a performance of the eponymous kabuki drama, Jiraiya. This exquisite and jewel-like print shows the actor Jitsukawa Ensaburo as Jiraiya, holding a musket, his head embedded in a riot of slithering colours and space defying pattern. Above him, shaded, anthropomorphic cartouches grin and grimace, revealing his name and the play title. It is a magnificent piece of work… true and great art, fabulous portraiture and an astonishing and bravura piece of design.

The story of Jiraiya is long and convoluted. A Daimyo is attacked by a giant snake and rescued by a brave boy whom he takes to be his own son. The boy is in fact a snake demon, bent on the destruction of mankind. The Daimyo is possessed by the evil snake demon and has the families of the neighbouring kingdoms thrown from a cliff. The children (one of them the infant Jiraiya) survive and are raised by a hermit, Senso Dojin, (pictured in the companion sheet). Jiraiya is taught toad magic, hence the anthropomorphic cartouches. They are taught that the only way to defeat the giant snake demon is with a sacred sword. Jiraiya is wounded, healed by a long lost sister and finds the sacred sword. On confronting the possessed Daimyo, Jiraiya decides to pardon him because the sword has exorcised him and they all part in peace.

Many, many prints exist of Jiraiya with his sacred toads and swords, of his sister and her sacred slug magic and of course of both of them battling gigantic snake demons. This portrayal is particularly fine and lavish. A great print, ludicrously under valued, by a master of the form. Colour, condition and impression are all outstanding. A copy of this print and its companion are in the Metropolitan Museum New York.

25cm x 18cm.