This print was among the first designs published after the relaxation of the Tenpô Reforms (Tenpô kaikaku) ― edicts that in 7/1842 banned actor prints in Osaka, virtually halting print production in Kamigata for five years. The series title, Chûkô kijinden (Stories of remarkable loyalty and filial piety), is indicative of the guarded approach to Osaka printmaking following the reforms. 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.
A dramatic portrayal, one of the very few okubi-e (large head) ghost designs from the brush of Hirosada. Provenance: Okada Collection
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