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Archive: Sadanobu (貞信)

(1R) Kataoka Gadô II (片岡我童) as Hikaru Uji (光氏); (2R) Nakamura Keishi [Tomijûrô II] (中村慶子) as Tasogare (たそかれ); (3R) Onoe Baikô [Kikugorô III] (尾上梅幸) as Shinonome (しののめ); (4R) Nakamura Shikan III (中村芝翫) as Kiyonosuke (喜代之助) in Inaka Genji Yûgao no maki (Rustic Genji — Yugaô chapter: 田舎源氏夕顔廼巻), a mitate (見立)
Hasegawa Sadanobu ga (長谷川貞信画)
Carver: (2R, 4R) hori Kuma Yashichi (ホリクマヤ七); Printers: (2R, 4R) suri Nao (スリナヲ) and (3R) suri Masa (スリ政)
Kinkadô Tenki (金花堂天喜梓)
c. 3/1841
(H x W)
ôban tetraptych nishiki-e
37.0 x 100.0 cm
Excellent color and overall condition;; backed, sheets separated but not precisely along original borders
Price (USD/¥):

Order/Inquiry: SDN40


The literary classic Genji monogatari (Tale of Genji: 源氏物語) was written by the Kyoto-born Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部) in the early eleventh century. Yûgao ("Evening Faces") refers to the fourth chapter, whose associated crest (Genji-mon) appears on Tasogare's red obi (sash). In the original tale, prince Genji is enamoured of a frail beauty named Yûgao, so he arranges a secret meeting and decides to take her away the following day. That night, however, he awakes to find an apparition near Yûgao's pillow. When he tries to wake her, he discovers she has died. Genji then insists on finding her daughter, intending to raise her as his own.

The "Rustic Genji" theme that made its way into various ukiyo-e prints and paintings was inspired by Nise Murasaki inaka Genji (The rustic Genji, false Murasaki: 偐紫田舎源氏), a Japanese literary parody. The series, written by Ryûtei Tanehiko (柳亭種彦 1783-1842) with illustrations by Utagawa Kunisada, was published in a woodblock edition between 1829 and 1842. It is one of many gôkan (lit., "combined volumes": 合巻), a popular literary form in multi-volume sets that merged images with text.


Sadanobu's mitate-e (generally a witty comparison, but here meaning an imaginary casting) probably played off the Yûgao theme in clever ways, but we do not have a script to know for certain just what the present scene depicts. The approximate date of 3/1841 comes from Prof. Matsudaira Susumu's 1997 monograph on the artist Sadanobu (see HSH below), which did not provide a specific source for the dating.

One mark of a special edition is the inclusion of carver and printer seals, which appear on only a very small percentage of Osaka prints; however, such seals are found in the rectangular cartouches at the bottom of each print in Sadanobu's tetraptych. The four sheets bear the respective numbers indicating their position in the polyptych, preceded by text reading "four sheets" (四枚続). This rarely available design survives here in an exceptional state of preservation.


This impression comes from the much-admired Martin Levitz collection, New York City. Some of the Levitz prints were used to illustrate Schwaab's Osaka Prints (1989).

References: HSH, no. 75