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Archive: Sadamasu 貞升 (later Kunimasu 國升)

Description:
Kataoka Gadô II as Heiji in Seishû Akogi ga ura at the Chikugo no Shibai, Osaka
Signature:
Kunimasu ga (國升画)
Seals:
No artist seal
Publisher:
Kawayo (seal trimmed in lower left margin)
Date:
10/1851
Format:
(H x W)
Deluxe chûban nishiki-e
25.0 x 17.5 cm
Impression:
Excellent deluxe impression with furikake (sprinkling with metallics: 振掛) and karazuri ("empty printing" or embossing: 空摺)
Condition:
Excellent color, very good condition, unbacked; printing creases above topknot, glue residue to left of cartouche, bottom margin slightly soiled
Price (USD/¥):
SOLD

Inquiry: KMS26

Comments:
Background

Seishû Akogi ga ura (Provincial authority at Akogi Bay : 勢州阿漕浦), which premiered for the puppet theater in 1808 at the Mitami Kyônai no Shibai in Osaka, involves the ailing mother of Akogi no Heiji. She has been ill for three years when Akogi hears of a rare fish called yagara that will supposedly help her. Unfortunately, fishing in Akogi Bay has been banned because it is part of the imperial shrine at Ise, so Akogi must resort to poaching at night. When he first casts his net, he brings up a precious sword. Although determined to continue, he is stopped by a local poacher named Heiga no Jirozô, who raises the alarm in the hope of casting suspicion for his own poaching onto Akogi. The two struggle, but all Jirozô manages to take is Akogi’s raincoat and sedge hat, which has his name on it. Later, the village headman Hikosaku confronts Akogi, who throws the official out of his home. Akogi then reveals his transgressions to his wife Oharu, also telling her that he recognizes the sword as one named "Totsuka," sought after by her father, the general Tamura. In the denouement, Jirozô kills Hikosaku to prevent him from reporting Akogi, confessing that he once worked for Akogi’s father. He also announces that his foster father was responsible for the loss of the sword, which was why he was fishing in the bay. When police finally arrive, Jirozô gives himself up, taking the blame for stealing the sword and thereby freeing Akogi.

Design

This is another of Sadamasu's fine portraits in chûban format, with excellent printing. Also note the stylized bat-border cartouche for the signature at the upper left — the kômori (bat: 蝙蝠) was a seal or crest used by the artist Sadamasu. More generally, the kômori was considered to be an aupicious animal in Japan, emblematic of good luck.

References: IKBYS-III, no. 173; NKE, p. 563