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Archive: Hirosada (廣貞)

Nakamura Shikan III as Kumagai Jirô Naozane in Suma no miyako genpei tsutsuji, Chikugo Theater, Osaka; Series Title: Chûkô Kijinden
Hirosada ga
No artist seal
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
Ôban nishiki-e
38.4 x 26.0 cm
Very good
Good color (with slight fading); Good condition (unbacked; full size; a few small stray sumi marks in 3 places; some very light stains, rubbing, soil; 3 tiny wormholes)
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #HSD06)


This play is an adaptation of the tales about the Genpei wars (1156-1185), the pivotal struggle between the Minamoto (Genji) and Taira (Heike) clans. Kumagai, one of kabuki's most celebrated roles, was a general serving under the legendary Minamoto no Yoshitsune who must face in battle a youth of only 15 named Atsumori, son of a Taira general. As it happenes, Kumagai owes a debt of gratitude to Atsumori's mother, for she had saved Kumagai and his wife from execution 17 years earlier. Having no other way to honor his debt, Kumagai substitutes and sacrifices his own son for Atsumori. This shocking turn of events only delays the inevitable, however, and finally Kumagai must slay Atsumori. Distraught at the loss of his son and his failure to save Atsumori, Kumagai renounces his allegiance to the Minamoto and takes the vows of a Buddhist monk.


The series title, Chûkô kijinden (Stories of remarkable loyalty and filial piety), is indicative of the guarded approach toward Osaka printmaking following the Tenpô Reforms (Tenpô kaikaku) — edicts that in 7/1842 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. The use of didactic or moralizing titles was intended to endow a print with a loftier purpose. Another bit of "camouflage" was the omission of actor names, although the accurate physiognomies were easily identifiable by patrons of yakusha-e, who would have been intimately familiar with the performers and current stage productions. These transparent gestures would not have fooled the censors, but avoiding explicit references to actors apparently satisfied the letter of the law.

Kumagai appears to be in disguise, raising his large amigasa (sedge hat) meant to hide his face. One sandal has fallen to the floor. He holds a folding fan (ôgi) in his right hand. The large ôgi cartouche reads Mikagedô (possibly a shop name and sponsor of the print). The floral cartouche in the form of a square poem card (shikishiban) is inscribed with the role name (Kumagai Jirô Naozane), while his black robe is decorated with the character "Kuma."

Note: Ôban-size prints constituted a very small percentage of Hirosada's designs — making our print one of the few available examples. Also, this print can be counted among the earliest post-Tenpô Reform (1842-47) ôban designs following the 5-year ban on theatrical prints.

References: IBKYS-IV, no. 17; SCH, no. 203; IKB-I, no. 3-120; KNP-6, p. 502; NKE, p. 622