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VJP title
Utamaro print showing


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Gosôtei Sadahiro (五粽亭貞廣)


Gosôtei Sadahiro (五粽亭貞廣 act. c. 1830–1853) might have been a pupil of the Osaka Shijô-style painter Ueda Kôchô (上田公長 1788-1850), possibly around 1826. Regardless, he was for a brief time a pupil of Utagawa Kunisada I in Edo around 1828, and by 1830 he was designing prints in Osaka, where two of his addresses are known to have been Tatamiyamachi Mistuderasuji and Nanba Shinchi.

Sadahiro: Asao Takumi I (浅尾内匠) as Shundô Genba (春藤玄蕃) in Sugawara denju tenarai kagami
(Mirror of learning & transmitting Sugawara's secrets of calligraphy: 菅原伝授手習鑑), 3/1830, Takeda Theater
Woodblock print, ôban (377 x 259 mm)

While Sadahiro I made his home and pursued his printmaking opportunities in Osaka, he also continued providing designs for woodblock-printed illustrated books (ehon: 絵本) in Edo during the early to mid-1830s. For example, in 1835, he produced the frontispieces for Heitei Ginkei's (平亭銀鶏 1790-1870) four-volume novel Naniwa zasshi chimata [machi] no uwasa (A miscellany of gossip about the town of Osaka: 浪華雑誌街能噂). The text includes the Edo author's opinions of Osaka in a series of imaginary conversations with the local citizenry. In the third volume there is a vivid colloquial "discussion" about various Osaka artists, including Utagawa Sadamasu, Ryûsai Shigeharu, Shunbaisai Hokuei, Tenmaya Kunihiro, and Sadahiro himself. Although self-promoting and fanciful, it constitutes the only surviving contemporaneous record of criticisms involving Osaka artists of the 1830s. The work identifies Sadahiro as a promising young artist.

Among other ehon illustrated by Sadahiro, there was the Ginkei issui — Nanka no yume ("Ginkei's doze, Nanka's Dream": 銀鶏一睡 ・ 南柯廼夢), preface date 1833, published in two volumes, 1835, by the aforementioned Heitei Ginkei. The text documented the popularity of art societies that gathered at restaurants and engaged in painting and calligraphy sessions. According to the preface written by the superstar Edo actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VII (七代目 市川團十郎, 1791-1859), the author Heitei Ginkei managed a shogakai (society for calligraphy and painting: 書画会) that met regularly on the twenty-fifth day of each month. Sadahiro's frontispiece for the book illustrates a meeting with 48 members, featuring Edo notables, past and present, such as the artists Keisai Eisen (渓斎英泉 1790–1848) and Utagawa Kuninao (歌川國直 1793-1854), the actors Ichikawa Danjûrô VII and Iwai Hanshirô III (三代目 岩井半四郎 1698-1759), and the playwrights Hanagasa Bunkyô (花笠文京 1785–1860) and Tatekawa Danshûrô (立川談洲樓, Uei Enba, 烏亭焉馬 1743–1822).

Sadahiro I produced some accomplished single-sheet actor portraits (yakusha-e: 役者絵), particularly in the beginning of his active period. Before 1842, his nishiki-e (full-color prints: 錦絵) were almost exclusively yakusha-e in the ôban format (大判 approx. 370 x 280 mm), except for a few ôban nerimono-e ("slow procession": 邌物絵) in the collaborative series Shimanouchi nerimono ("Costume Parade in the Shimanouchi District," 6/1836). After 1847, Sadahiro produced mostly chûban (中判 250 x 180 mm) yakusha-e.

One of Sadahiro’s earliest known works is a portrait of Asao Takumi I (浅尾内匠) as Shundô Genba (春藤玄蕃) for a performance of Sugawara denju tenarai kagami (Mirror of learning & transmitting Sugawara's secrets of calligraphy: 菅原伝授手習鑑), probably in 3/1830 at the Takeda Theater (see image at top). Standing against a yellow background, Takumi wears one of kabuki's more unusual costumes — a ryûjin maki (dragon god scroll), which has a distinctive billowing rectangular left sleeve made rigid by bamboo inserts and emblazoned with a large crest, in this instance reading "eye" (moku or me, 目). The right sleeve is removed from the arm and fixed at the back in a manner intended to resemble a dried abalone strip (noshi), an auspicious symbol for the continuation of a family lineage, long life, and good fortune. His makeup is called (akazuna or akattsura (red face: 赤面), usually indicating a villain or evil character in kabuki.

Sadahiro: Rikan II (嵐璃寛) as Yorimasa (より政) in Norimasa nue monogatari
(Tale of Yorimasa and the nue: 頼政鵺物語), 8/1836, Naka Theater, Osaka
Woodblock print, ôban (378 x 257 mm)

In 8/1836, Sadahiro depicted Arashi Rikan II (嵐璃寛) in one of his signature roles as Yorimasa (より政) from the 8/1836 production of Norimasa nue monogatari ((Tale of Yorimasa and the nue: 頼政鵺物語) at the Naka Theater, Osaka. The historical Minamoto no Yorimasa (源の頼政 1104-1180) served eight different sovereigns in his long career, holding posts such as hyôgo no kami (head of the arsenal). He was also a prominent poet whose works appeared in various anthologies. In 1179 he entered the Buddhist priesthood and took the name Gen Sanmi Nyûdô. Although he had allied himself with the Taira (Heike 平家) clan against the Minamoto (Genji 源氏) during the Hôgen no ran(Hôgen civil war; 1156-59) and the Heiji no ra (Heiji civil war; 1160), he switched allegiance and led the Minamoto forces against the Taira in 1180. Suffering defeat at Uji, he committed suicide in the Byôdô Temple.

The play Yorimasa nue monogatari features a legendary Yorimasa who is forever associated with slaying the mythical nue (鵺) in 1153 — as recorded in the Heike monogatari (Tale of the Heike: 平家物語), first quarter 13th century. Yorimasa, who was a formidable archer who, looking up at the emperor's palace roof, caught sight of a strange winged-creature with an ape's head, tiger's claws, badger's (tanuki) back, and snake-head tail. As the emperor was suffering from a life-threatening illness, Yorimasa suspected that the nue was the cause. A single arrow took down the beast, whereupon Yorimasa's retainer (Ino Hayata Tadazumi) delivered the coup de grâce with his sword.

Sadahiro's design exploits the atmosphere of a pitch-black stormy night to great effect. Mandarin orange blossoms (tachibana, Rikan's acting crest: 橘) fall to the ground during an ominous windstorm. Yorimasa's headgear is called a hikitate eboshi ("bird-hat pulled upright": 引立烏帽子), one of the pliable hats worn by samurai. Dressed in elegant, billowing robes nearly the width of the entire sheet, Rikan II sports a sword scabbard covered in yellow and black striped tiger's fur (partly visible on the left behind his right arm). He holds the bow and arrow that he will use to bring down the nue. For more about this design see my text at Sadahiro's Yorimasu.

Around 1835-1836, Sadahiro designed a small series (perhaps only three prints) of ôban-format horizontal landscapes (fûkei-yoko-e: 風景横絵) titled "Views of Osaka" (Naniwa fûkei no uchi: 浪華風景之内). These prints were in a mode very close to the fûkei-ga of the Edo masters Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川廣重 1797-1858) and Keisai Eisen (mentioned earlier). However, single-sheet landscapes of this type were exceedingly rare in Osaka. Aside from a slightly earlier series of six fûkei-ga by Yashima Gakutei (八島岳亭 1786-1868), an Edo artist on a sojourn in Osaka, there were virtually no single-sheet ôban landscapes published in Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka region). Gakutei's Naniwa meisho Tenpôzan shôkei ichiran (A famous place in Osaka: Fine views of Mount Tenpô at a glance: 浪華名所天保山勝景一覧) appeared in 1834. Sadahiro's set of three known designs was issued by Tenki (Tenmaya Kihei: 天満屋喜兵衛), with whom Sadahiro had a close working relationship, and possibly even a position in the management of the publishing firm. Both Gakutei's and Sadahiro's ôban fûkei-ga suggest what might have been had printmaking in Kamigata taken up the challenge to adopt a localized landscape genre in competition with the already dominant Edo-based variety. Alas, this never happened. Only much later, in the late 1850s and 1860s, did fûkei-ga appear in any real numbers in Kamigata, although overwhelmingly in reduced-size views (chûban, koban, or mameban), either as original designs, or as copies of Edo landscapes by Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾北齋 1760-1849). One of Sadahiro's fûkei-ga is shown below, a depiction of the Tenjin and Tenma bridges spanning the Ôgawa in Osaka.

Sadahiro: (Ôgawa Tenjin-bashi, Tenma-bashi: 大川天神橋天満橋)
"Tenjin and Tenma Bridges on the Great River," c. 1835-1836
Series: Naniwa fûkei no uchi ("Views of Osaka": 浪華風景之内)
Woodblock print, ôban format

There has been some conjecture that Sadahiro changed his name to Hirokuni in mid-1847, a few months after publishers began testing the post-Tenpô Reform ban (Tenpô kaikaku: 天保改革) against actor prints, which had been in effect from 6/1842 until 1/1847 in Osaka. Immediately thereafter, it has been suggested, Hirokuni changed his name to Hirosada. However, the claim that Sadahiro was the same artist as Hirokuni/Hirosada has not been universally accepted and remains problematic (see the page for Hirosada).

Sadahiro I's names and signatures

Nanakawa (南々川)
Utagawa (歌川)
Mitani (三谷)

Personal names (jinmei):
Kyômaruya Seijirô;

Art names (geimei):
Sadahiro (貞廣)

Art pseudonyms ():
Gochôtei (五蝶亭)
Kôgadô (好画堂)
Ukiyo (浮世)
Gofukutei ? (五蝠亭)
Gorakutei (五樂亭)
Gosôtei (五粽亭) see signature at top right
Gokitei (五輝亭)

© 2019-2021 by John Fiorillo


  • Keyes, R. and Mizushima, K.: Theatrical World of Osaka Prints. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973, pp. 238-39, nos. 275-79.
  • Hendrick Lühl: Schätze der Kamigata: Japanische Farbenholzschnitte aus Osaka, 1780-1880 (Treasures of Osaka: Japanese Color Prints from Osaka, 1780-1880). Musee National d'Histoire et d'Art Luxembourg, 2013.
  • Matsudaira, Susumu: Kamigata-e: Kôki (Kamigata prints in the former period, Parts I-II. Vols. 4-5). Tsubouchi Memorial Theater Museum, eds. Tokyo: Waseda University, 1995.
  • Matsudaira, Susumu: Kamigata yakusha-e shûsei (Collection of Kamigata actor prints), Vol. III. Osaka: Ikeda Bunko, 1998, pp. 28-31, nos. 91-108.
  • Schwaab, Dean: Osaka Prints. New York: Rizzoli, 1989, pp. 42-43, nos. 196, 198, 288-89.
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