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Archive: Kiyosada (清貞)

Jitsukawa Enzaburô I (實川延三郎) as Kojin Yojirôfu (孝人与じろふ) in Saru mawashi kadode no hitofushi (Melody of the monkey-trainer‘s journey: 猿曳門出諷), Naka Theater, Osaka
Kiyosada (清貞)
Artist seal: Kiyosada (清貞)?
Printer Seal: Edo Jinkichi suri (江戸甚摺) in lower left margin
No publisher seal
(H x W)
Chûban nishiki-e
26.1 X 19.1 cm
Excellent, with embossing
Excellent color, unbacked; tiny repaired wormhole on arm in LR corner
Price (USD/¥):

Inquiry (Ref #KYS04)


The play Saru mawashi kadode no hitofushi (Melody of the monkey-trainer's journey: 猿曳門出諷), which premiered in 7/1798, was the kabuki adaptation of a 1782 bunraku (puppet) play titled Chikagoro kawara no tatehiki (A recent riverbed rivalry: 近頃河原の達引), based on an actual love suicide of the seventeenth century. These and a few other versions of the tale (such as Oshun Denbei Horikawa no dan (お俊伝兵衛堀川の段) fall into the category of Oshun Denbei mono (plays about Oshun and Denbei: お俊伝兵衛物) recounting the (usually) tragic story of the two lovers.


Kiyosada's works are rather uncommon. He might have been a follower of Konishi Hirosada (小西廣貞); the scholar Roger Keyes asserted that Kiyosada styled his signature after Hirosada's — see TWOP below). Another possibility, although also unconfirmed, was that Kiyosada received some tutlege from Gochôtei Kunimasu (五蝶亭國升 earlier called Sadamasu 貞升). Kiyosada's later geimei (art name: 芸名) was Ittôsai Masunobu (一刀齋升信) and his active period seems to have been brief, circa 1847-53.

Enzaburô I performs the role of a sarumawashi (猿廻 or 猿廻しor 猿回), a monkey showman or trainer. Also found on ukiyo-e prints is the term saru-hiki ("monkey puller": 猿曳), an earlier term from which "monkey trainer" was apparently derived. If we can believe the realism in Kiyosada's depiction, this production used an actual monkey on stage. Otherwise, in kabuki, the role of the monkey typically showcased a child performer in a monkey costume, sometimes also celebrating his very first shûmei ("name succession": 襲名), the ritualized taking of an acting name.

In the present play, Izutsuya Denbei (井筒屋伝兵衛) and the courtesan Oshun (お俊) are lovers. Denbei has just retrieved a precious scroll painting depicting a hawk that belongs to someone to whom Denbei is indebted. When Denbei confronts his rival, the malevolent samurai Yokôfûchi Kanzaemon, who lusts after Oshun, Denbei kills him, but the scroll is torn during the fight. Denbei flees, hiding out with Oshun at the home of her elder brother Yojirô, a monkey trainer in Horikawa. In persent version of the tale, a happy resolution ensues when family and friends persuade the lovers to forego shinjû (double suicide: 心中), as the scroll turns out to be a forgery.

Our impression is very fine, with excellent color, wide margins, and not-often found nunomezuri (fabric printing: 布目摺). The latter is a blind-printing or embossing technique in which a piece of cloth (often muslin or thick silk) is placed over an uninked block shaped for the area to be printed. The woven pattern of the textile is transferred by exerting heavy pressure with the baren (standard ukiyo-e rubbing tool: 馬楝) on the dampened paper.

Although not necessarily rare, designs by Kiyosada are few and often found in compromised condition. This is only the fourth Kiyosada we have offered on our website.

References: WAS-VI, no. 66 (inv. 016-1996); TWOP, p. 268; NKE, p. 554