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signed Shunkosai Hokushu ga with artist’s seal Hokushu, ca. 1822
oban tate-e 14 3/4 by 10 1/8 in., 37.4 by 25.8 cm
The actor Asao Gakujuro (Jitsukawa Gakujuro, 1782-1835) is in the role of Mashiba Hisatsugu from the play Kinmon Gosan no Kiri(The Golden Gate and the Paulownia Crest), performed at the Kado Theater during the 2nd month of 1822. The extra attention signified by a bust-portrait was likely given in honor of the actor’s recent promotion to the major theaters, receiving the patronage of the star Nakamura Utaemon III (1778-1838) and taking the name of Asao Gakujuro the previous month. The poems are signed with the actor’s haigo (literary name), Enjaku, and Oguro-an.
He is portraying the role of Hisatsugu, the ill-fated son of Mashiba Hisayoshi, whose name was a thinly veiled guise for the historical Toyotomi Hideyoshi (to avoid the censors’ scrutiny). Due to his disreputable character, Hisatsugu is disowned by his father, who chooses his other son Hisaaki as his sole heir. Furious, Hisatsugu tries to have his brother killed. The assassination is unsuccessful, and Hisatsugu is sent to the guardianship of a retainer to correct his unruly temperament. Stubborn as ever, Hisatsugu is not subdued and, after fifty days of supervision, is finally executed.
Roger S. Keyes and Keiko Mizushima, The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints, 1973, p. 293
Dean J. Schwaab, Osaka Prints, 1989, p. 82, cat. no. 41