Sadanobu, Ichikawa Ebizo V as Senso Dojin

Hasegawa Sadanobu (1808 - 1879) Ichikawa Ebizo V as Senso Dojin, 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 Ichikawa Ebizo V as Senso Dojin, the hermit and magician who rescues the young Jiraiya and teaches him the mysterious toad magic that will save his life and restore his fortunes. 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 here). 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 this play with its sacred toads and swords, of Jiraya's sister and her sacred slug magic and of course of both of them battling gigantic snake demons. This portrayal of Dojin 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.