Hirosada, Arashi Rikaku II as Nippon Daemon

Konishi Hirosada (ca 1810 - 1864) Arashi Rikaku II as Nippon Daemon in Totomigata Koi no Shiranami, 1852. Deluxe Chuban Triptych.

Click here for a detailed enlargement.

A really outstanding triptych from Hirosada… a real dark and velvety jewel box of a piece. The handling of the nocturnal shades here is peerless: see how the whole background is pushed back behind the veiled layers of bokashi shading; how the silhouette of the temple and the trees looms up behind the figures; and how the bank and grass of the middle ground is gradually revealed. Then again, how brilliant are the edges of the foreground figures in their day-bright colours set against the Whistler-like nocturne. The balance in this piece between the deep umber shadows and the 'stage' is really terrific.. these night-time triptychs are some of the finest of the Osaka School's prodigious and exquisite output. I remain amazed that Osaka academics still sneer, (as do their Edo counterparts), at these mid-century prints… these pieces are near perfect in their composition, production and drawing… comparing them with the 'primitives' of the 1820’s, is like comparing porcelain with earthenware.

The centre sheet of the print shows one of the great bandit leaders of Japanese folklore and kabuki theatre… Nippon Daemon. Daemon appears in many stories and plays of the Edo period, mostly those associated with the strange cross-dressing character of Benten Kozo. The original play revolves around a band of five thieves, based on real thieves and criminals of Edo period Osaka: Karigane Bunshichi, An no Heibei, Gokuin Sen'emon, Kaminari Shokuro and Hotei Ichiemon. The name of Nippon Daemon, the leader of the band, is taken from that of Nippon Saemon, who was captured and executed in 1747. The character of Benten Kozō, meanwhile, is said to have been based upon a servant at the Iwamoto-in temple on Enoshima, an island dedicated to the goddess Benten.

Hirosada shows Daemon in a magnificent snake-decorated costume; he dominates the print… his wonderful robes and his huge bulk. This is a very fine print, beautifully handled. Colour and condition and impression are all fine and the print has the usual Osaka School embellishments of metal inks and beautiful, dense inks.

A copy of the print is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Published by Isekichi.

Each sheet, 24cm x 18cm.