106 a b c  - Japanse kunst, Japanse prent, Japanse prenten

106 a b c

Subject: Ichikawa Shikō II as Kamakuraya Gorohachi (a.), Ichikawa Sukejūrō II as Kurofune Chūemon (b.), and Arashi Rikan III as Gokumon no Shōbei (c.).

Play: Sugata kurabe deiri no minato.

Theatre: Kado

Date: 4/1849

Signature: Sadamasu ga (a., b., c.)

Publisher’s, or print-seller’s seal: Kawaoto (b.)

Format: chūban triptych

Private collection.


The style, colour scheme and cartouches of the chūban triptych are typical of the work of Sadamasu, but almost a year before the publication of the three prints the artist had begun to sign his work with his new name Kunimasu. Why would the artist revert to his former name on this occasion? Was it meant to promote the artist’s former name for one of his pupils and had the pupil in question already begun to use the former name of his master in the fourth month of 1849? Or, did the actors also act together in an earlier performance of the play?
Concerning the first question I would like to mention a chūban diptych by Sadamasu’s talented artist friend Hirosada, illustrated pl. 66 in Keyes, R., and Mizushima, K., The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints. The style of the two panels is identical and the signatures are the same, but with their characters reversed. One signature reads ‘Hirosada’ and the other ‘Sadahiro’, the last being the artist’s supposed former name. Also in this case there is no explanation for the reversion to a former name. Hirosada’s diptych was published only a few weeks after the publication of the chūban triptych discussed here, which of course might be pure coincidence.

With regard to the second question can be said that no print is known on which a pupil announces changing his name to Sadamasu, that is, Sadamasu II. However, a handful of prints are definitely designed by Sadamasu II. The earliest datable one of these was published 7/1849.   

The proposed possibility of an earlier performance of the play with the same cast is thoroughly examined. The answer to the third question is simple: ‘Until now no matching performance is found.’

Maybe sometime new material that solves the problem of identifying the artist will be discovered. Until then the chūban triptych is attributed here to Sadamasu. The attribution is merely based on the style characteristics of the three prints, being quite different from the ones seen in prints that unquestionably are designed by Sadamasu II.