Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Stories of a Chivalrous Man in the Theatrical World (Rien Kyokaku-den): Ichikawa Yaozo VI and Bando Muraemon in the play Sukeroku, 1863. Deluxe Oban.
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This lavish and jewel-like print is from one of Kunisada’s last series, carried out whilst in his last productive year, aged 78. It comes from a fabulous theatrical series, Stories of a Chivalrous Man in the Theatrical World (Rien Kyokaku-den).
The quality of the printing, the detail, the embossing, the colour and impression are really outstanding. Horst Graebner on his definitive site The Kunisada Project describes this series as "A very fine late half-length actor portrait series by Kunisada". It is indeed a very fine, deluxe series and very highly regarded by collectors. The series features outstanding double printing, and many deluxe techniques which impart a great depth and subtlety to the shadowy images. The series is signed with a late Kunisada version of the Toshidama seal and the words, "drawn by the 78 year old Toyokuni".
The play, Sukeroku Yukari no Edo Zakura, is one of the many farces that were written around loose extrapolations of the great Japanese revenge saga the Soga Monogatari. The courtesan Agemaki is the lover of Sukeroku (from the title of the kabuki drama) and also of the old samurai Ikyu. Sukeroku is in fact Soga Goro, the well known hero of the epic Soga Monogatari, in disguise. He is trying to discover the identity of his father's assassin and suspects the old man of possessing his father's sword. The play shows the verbal sparring between the two male leads as Sukeroku attempts to get the samurai to draw his weapon. There is a great deal of comedy in the play, Sukeroku being the classic archetype of the otokodate - the street-tough, romantic, reckless hero. Agemaki has to decide between the reckless young man or the certainty of her future with the aged warrior. In the final act, Sukeroku tricks the old man into drawing his sword, showing himself to be the killer of Sukeroku's father. Ichikawa Yaozo VI, and Bando Muraemon play minor characters Fukuyama no Zenta and Asagao Senbei.
A very fine theatre print from a rare series, colour, impression and condition are all fine. Extensive embossing especially to the double square cartouche. Embossing also to both of the figures with burnishing to the black inks and extensive mica in the dark background. An outstanding print.
Signature: nanajuhachi sai Toyokuni hitsu.
Publisher: Hiranoya Shinzo.
37 x 25 cm.