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Archive: Sadamasu 貞升 (later called Kunimasu 國升)

Ichikawa Morinosuke II as Saitô Rippon(?) or possibly Saitô Ryûhon in an unidentified play and theater
Ichijuen Sadamasu ga (一樹園貞升画)
No artist seal
No publisher seal
Circa mid-1830s
(H x W)
ôban nishiki-e
37 x 25.5 cm
Excellent (deluxe, with extensive metallics, burnishing, embossing)
Very good color and good overall condition; paper thinning along bottom area, verso; very slight horizontal centerfold reinforced on verso; several minor lower half creases; a few marks; puckered paper lower right corner
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #KMS39)


The actor Ichikawa Morinosuke II (市川森之助) was active in the 1830s-50s and often performed in the middle theaters. After around 1847, he took the name Ichikawa Shikô. He was a friend of the artist Sadamasu, who portrayed Morinosuke in both ôban and chûban formats.

Jan van Doesburg states that, "Among several names beginning with Saitô, this role is not mentioned in Iizuka, T., Kabuki Saiken, or in Kawatake, T., Kabuki tôjô jinbutsu. Moreover, Ichikawa Morinosuke II acted during the 1830s and early 1840s mainly at the middle theaters, such as the Wakadayû and Ônishi Theaters, which makes it even more difficult to trace the related actual performance."

We, too, have found it difficult to identify the role, but if it is not Saitô Rippon, it might be Saitô Toshimoto Nyûdô Ryûhon (菜籐利基入道立本). There is, for example, an Utagawa Kuniyoshi design (no. 48 from the series "Heroes of the great peace, Taiheiki Eiyuden, 太平記英勇傳 ) depicting Ryûhon, who served Akechi Michihide (the historical Akechi Mitsuhide, 明智光秀, 1528-1582) and later Fujiwara Masakiyo (藤原正清), the historical Kato Kiyomasa (加藤清正, 1562-1611). Such valiant heroes of Japan's military past were popular subjects for ukiyo-e artists both in Kamigata and Edo.


This design by Sadamasu is intricately printed, especially in the armor and robes, enhanced by gradation printing and subtle but extensive embossing and metallics. Saitô holds a metal bird that was wrapped in an elegantly patterned cloth (perhaps indicating that the bird is a treasured heirloom playing a part in the drama).

This design is rare, known to us in only two other impressions (one in a private collection, the other in the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art — see Jacob Raz: Kabuki Prints, Ukiyo-e, Yakusha-e. Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, Haifa Municipality, 1983, no. 83). No impressions are included in the major Japanese institutional collections. This is a fine example by Sadamasu published before the Tenpô Reforms (1842-47) halted print publication in Kamigata and the subsequent dominance of the chûban format starting in early 1847.

References: Jan van Doesburg, Sadamasu web page (the same impression we are offering here)