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Archive: Sadanobu (貞信)

Arashi Rikan II (嵐璃寛) as Kajiwara Heiji (梶原平次) in Hiragana seisuiki ((Simple chronicle of the rise and fall of the Heike and Genji: ひらかな盛衰記), Miyajima Theater,
Artist seal: Nansôrô (南忩樓)
Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei (天満屋喜兵衞)
(H x W)
ôban nishiki-e
38.2 x 26.3 cm
Excellent deluxe edition with metallics
 Excellent color, never backed; one small expertly repaired wormhole near LR corner of cartouche, a few minor paper flaws
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry: SDN55


Hiragana seisuiki (Simple chronicle of the rise and fall of the Heike and Genji: ひらかな盛衰記) was adapted from the medieval Genpei seisuiki (History of the rise and fall of the Genji and Heike: 源平盛衰記), a tale of the Genpei kassen (Genpei wars: 源平合戦) of 1180-1185 between the Heike (Taira) and Genji (Minamoto) clans. In the main plot thread, Kajiwara Heiji Kagetaka (梶原平次景高) is the wicked, ne'er-do-well younger brother of Kagiwara Genta Kagesue (梶原源太景季, died 1200) who plots to overthrow his sibling and take control of the Kajiwara fortune. The maidservant Chidori, who is in love with Genta, is also the object of Heiji's desire. During the battle at the Ujigawa, Genta allows a fellow warrior the honor of being the first to cross the river, thereby paying a debt of gratitude for that warrior's saving the life of Genta's father, Kajiwara Kagetoki (梶原景時, c. 1162-1200). Seizing the opportunity, Heiji unjustly brands his brother a coward for not grabbing the honor for the Kajiwara clan. The brothers fight and Heiji is forced to run away. Nevertheless, the accusation is too serious to ignore and Genta is disinherited by his mother. All the while Chidori sides with Genta, and the two, now in disgrace, leave together, vowing to restore Genta's honor. Chidori becomes the prostitute Umegae to support Genta in his quest to regain his inheritance. He ultimately succeeds after proving his bravery in battle, and Heiji is slain.


The Miyajima Shanai no Shibai (宮島社内芝居) was a small shrine theater that hosted kabuki plays. Actor prints commemorating performances at this venue have survived in rather small numbers.

Sadanobu I was active circa 1834–79, marking the present deign as a fairly early example from his oeuvre. The deluxe printing is quite fine with brass overlays on the purple robe and the swords and scabbards. The combination of colors is unusual, especially the orange colorant paired up with the purple and the mustard yellow for Rikan's socks (tabi, 足袋).

This is a very uncommon print; we know of only one other impression (see ref. below) in the major public collections. The venue for this production was Miyajima near Hiroshima, also a very rare instance of an actor print commemorating a staging in that theater.

References: MFA Boston, acc. no. 11.36438