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Archive: Hirosada (廣貞)

(R) Mimasu Daigorô IV as Umako Daijin, (M) Ichikawa Ebizô V as Umaya Daijin; (L) Jitsukawa Ensaburô I as Prince Shôtoku in Shitennôji garan kagami at the Naka no Shibai, Osaka
No artist seal
Kitakagawa (北香川)
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e triptych
25.0 x 52.7 cm
Excellent deluxe edition with extensive metallic printing (furikake 振掛 with simulated gold and silver) and embossing ("empty printing," karazuri: 空摺) on thick paper
(R) thinned area upper left margin, several tiny humidity spots on purple robe; (C) rubbed area around mouth and chin, album crease in left margin; (L) mild crease in gold above lower left lotus
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: HSD54


Based on actual events, Shitennô-ji garan kagami (The monastic mirror at the Temple of the Four Guardian kings: 四天王寺伽藍鑑) tells the tale of a rivalry between two courtiers following the death of the emperor Yômei in the year 587. Historically, Soga no Umako and Mononobe no Moriya (Umako Daijin and Umaya Daijin in the play) each supported a different prince to succeed Yômei. Umako managed to murder Moriya, insert his protege Sushun as emperor, and then replace him with his niece Suiko as empress while appointing her nephew Prince Shôtoku as regent. In the play Umaya is a powerful and dangerous jitsu aku (in kabuki, an "real villain" 実悪 or kuni zushi, "nation demolisher": 國崩し) who plots to take over control of Japan. His rivals are Umako Daijin and Prince Shôtoku.


In Hirosada's portrayal, Umaya is shown in the center sheet, an unusual full-frontal ôkubi-e ("large head picture": 大首絵), as beams of light emanate from his body, giving him an aura of invincibility. Umako holds a model of a pagoda while Shôtoku grasps an arrow, both symbolic gestures involving talismanic objects meant to protect themselves from Umaya's malevolent intent.

This is one of Hirosada's most impressive and sought-after deluxe chûban triptychs. Printed with extensive metallics and high-quality pigments, it is a marvelous conception of drama on the kabuki stage. (Impressions are also known with fewer or no metallics.)

References: HOP, no. 14