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Archive: Hirosada (廣貞)

(R) Kataoka Gadô II as Saitô Kurunosuke and (L) Nakamura Tamashichi I as Takechi Tsuruwakamaru in Keisei Ishikawazome, Chikugo Theater, Osaka; Title: Chûkô senmen awase
No artist seal
Kinkadô (Tenmaya Kihei)
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e
25.5 x 18.3 cm
Very good color; good condition (slightly trimmed, very slightly toned, stray sumi mark, rubbed lower left, thinned lower right corner, vertical album fold far right)
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD (Ref #HSD01)

The Tenpô Reforms (Tenpô kaikaku) were edicts initiated by Mizuno Tadakuni (1774-1851), chief councilor (rôjû) to the shôgun Tokugawa Ieyoshi. In 7/1842 they banned actor prints in Osaka, virtually halting print production in Kamigata for five years. A gradual weakening of enforcement ensued despite reiterations in 1844 and 1845 by the government of its intention to continue the reforms, and by 1847 relatively normal print production had resumed, though printmakers played their cards close to their vests for nearly a decade afterwards.

One sign of this caution was the omission of actor names, plus the addition of uplifting, moralizing series or print titles, such as the title on Hirosada's print: Chûkô senmen awase, which could be read as "A comparison of loyalty and filial piety on folding fans." Patrons of yakusha-e hardly needed the inscribed names, however, as the physiognomies were easily identifiable, and they would have been intimately familiar with current stage productions.

Nakamura Tamashichi I (1837 - 2/15/1860) was a rising young actor — a mere boy of eleven in this print — who seemed destined for stardom before his premature death at only twenty-four years of age.


The red seal at the lower right is hand stamped and reads Kinkadô, representing the publisher Tenmaya Kihei.

The placement of bust portraits (okubi-e or "large heads") within folding fans (ôgi) was an effective way to isolate two or more actors on a single sheet while still retaining graphic relationships among them. Often, as here, the artist would establish a psychological or dramatic connection by having the actors look at one another.

References: IBKYS-IV, no. 70; KNP-6, p. 511