Sadanobu Hasegawa III – Sukeroku

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Hasegawa III, Sadanobu


(A) Very Fine Condition, (B) Fine Condition







Sukeroku (助六由縁江戸桜) is a play in the Kabuki repertoire, and one of the celebrated Kabuki Jūhachiban (“Eighteen Great Plays”). The play is known in English as “The Flower of Edo”.

Events take place in Yoshiwara, a pleasure district of present-day Tokyo. Agemaki is a courtesan who is frequented by Sukeroku (who turns out to be Soga Gorô). Sukeroku is continually looking for fights. An old samurai called Ikyû arrives and tries to coax Agemaki away from Sukeroku. Sukeroku does not succeed in provoking Ikyû to draw his sword. A saké-seller named Shimbei shows up, and Sukeroku picks a fight with him, but Shimbei reveals himself to be Soga Jûrô (Sukeroku’s elder brother) in disguise. Sukeroku explains to his brother (and later his mother) that he tries to provoke people into drawing their sword. If the sword turns out to be Tomokirimaru (their fathers sword), the person who holds the sword is probably the killer of their father and revenge can be exacted.

Ikyû tries to convince the brothers to join him. To demonstrate his power he hacks a leg of an incense burner. Thus revealing that his sword is in fact Tomokirimaru and he is Iga Heinaizaemon, an enemy of the family, and their father’s killer. Quite often the play ends here, although there are versions where Sukeroku kills Ikyû.

The Woodblock Print

We consider this print to be in good to very good condition, but with obvious issues. The image itself is in perfect condition with rich black, red, and negative space in the printing. There are no issues with the paper of the print, nor anywhere in the image itself. The margins are intact, and the verso is mostly clean with only a few areas of tape residue. The issue with the piece is the discoloration from prior matting that has created mat lines in the margins of the piece.

About the Artist

Sadanobu Hasegawa III (1881-1963) is the third in a long line of Japanese printmakers, following his father and grandfather into the profession. Born in Osaka as the son of Sadanobu II, he was the student of Shijo painter Ueda Kocho, and later the student of Utagawa Sadamasu, becoming a member of the Osaka School. Most of the woodblock prints by Sadanobu Hasegawa III were made after World War II.

Sadanobu Hasegawa III worked to adopt the art of Japanese printmaking to the 20th century. Most of his work was commissioned by the Uchida company in Kyoto, one of the largest publishers of woodblock prints in Japan at the time. His technique followed the old Japanese tradition of hand making all of the blocks, while occasionally adding more modern features to some of his prints like embossing of metal pigments.

Sadanobu Hasegawa III adopted a style which was a combination of old okiyo-e traditions with a modern approach. His subjects included the traditional focuses of ukiyo-e tradition such as kabuki theater, the bunraku puppet theater, beautiful girls from Kyoto, as well as scenes and events from Japan’s medieval history and legends. His work primarily catered to the foreign market, and his selections of colors and subjects almost portrayed a Disneyland image of Japan.