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Enjaku (猿雀)


Enjaku (猿雀), active c. 1856-1866, was an Osaka print designer who is known today only by his artist's name (geimei). He produced more than 150 designs, with an extraordinary 88 percent in deluxe editions. Nearly all were chûban (about 10 x 7"), but five compositions were ôban and one each were in the hosoban, tanzaku, and koban formats.

Enjaku: Ichikawa Yonezô III (市川米蔵) as Kainosuke (かいの助)
Keisei nanakusa-goma ("Courtesan in seven surprising forms," or alternatively,
"Courtesan: A colt and seven herbs": けいせい七草駒), Tenma Theater, Osaka, 3/1863
Print Title: Kagami no ôi tôsei kurabe
(Comparison of strength in a contemporary mirror: 鏡覆當世競)

Enjaku specialized in designing actor prints made with luxurious techniques (metallics, embossing, burnishing, expensive pigments, gradated shading, multiple hues of a single color). He worked with the finest Osaka block cutters and printers of the late Edo period. In some cases his portraits were significantly enhanced by the quality of the printing, and these works are among the most impressive examples of the printmaker's art at the start of the final period in Osaka. His prints were often issued without publisher's marks, possibly through private arrangements with block-cutter and printer workshops as special commissions from actors or their fan clubs and private patrons. Enjaku's deluxe designs must have been printed in small editions because many are known in only one or two impressions and very few show any signs of key block wear. Only later ordinary editions (i.e., without deluxe pigments or techniques) seem to show obvious thinning or breaking up of the key-block lines.

The chûban print shown at the top right portrays the actor Ichikawa Yonezô III (市川米蔵) as Kainosuke (かいの助 that is, Awashima Kainosuke, あわ島甲勢の助) in Keisei nanakusa-goma ("Courtesan in seven surprising forms," or alternatively, "Courtesan: A colt and seven herbs": けいせい七草駒) at the Tenma Theater, Osaka in 3/1863. The dense application of dark copper-rich brass mimicking tarnished gold is a key feature of many Enjaku works. Yonezô is reflected in a mirror, a popular type of bust portrait in ukiyo-e prints. The kanji printed in metallics within the scalloped cloud forms read Kagami no ôi tôsei kurabe (Comparison of contemporary mirrors with covers, or, Comparison of strength in a contemporary mirror: 鏡覆當世競). Blue and red brocade fabrics used to wrap and protect the mirror can be seen on three sides of the frame, which is itself printed with metallics. Yonezô's robes are printed in three shades of blue, turquoise, yellow, pink, and red, along with gold-color brass. The design is on a sheet somewhat larger than a standard chûban-format paper. All-in-all, this is a superb example of the art of the deluxe chûban Osaka print from the mid-eighteenth century.

Enjaku dennai compare

An example of a deluxe and later edition of the same chûban design is shown immediately above. The actor Yonezô III is portrayed as Owari Dennai in Katakiuchi ura no asagiri (Revenge along the bay in morning fog: 敵討浦朝霧) at the Zama no Shibai in 10/1864. This time the framing device is a round mirror. However, the zooming in on the actor also suggests a saeconday influence, the western telescope, which was introduced into Japan at least by the early eighteenth century. The result is a combined mirror close-up and telescoped picture-within-a-picture motif. The deluxe printing on the left includes the expected metallics, but also a red color gradation within the roundel and a gray blending on the snow-covered rock along the bottom of the design. The ordinary edition on the right uses yellow where the metallics were omitted and has a monochrome blue background within the mirror and only a faint gradation of gray on the lower rock.

Enjaku Wakagi no adanagusaMany of Enjaku's actor portraits were based on performances from the middle-level kabuki theaters (called chû-shibai) and the shrine theaters (called shanai shibai). The chûban print on the left depicts the actors Nakamura Tamashichi I as Kamiyui Goroshichi and Nakamura Kanjaku II as Sakuragawa Ranchô in the play Wakagi no adanagusa (Notorious guises at the Wakagi: 和木仇名草) performed in 8/1858 at the Tenma shrine theater. The background is printed with brass metallics simulating the luxurious gold leaf found on Japanese screen paintings. The colors are made from expensive pigments that are typical for deluxe-style kamigata-e (prints made in the Kyoto-Osaka region). The diagonal arrangement of the actors as they strike their expressive poses or mie was a standard compositional device found throughout ukiyo-e actor portraiture, but it is aided here by setting the actors against the metallic background, endowing Enjaku's double portrait with an air of elegance.

A rare deluxe ôban design (one of only five prints by Enjaku on such large sheets) is shown below on the right. Arashi Rikan III is portrayed in the role of Yaegaki-hime for the play Honchô nijûshikô (Twenty-four filial sons of the empire: 本朝廿四孝) at one of Osaka's "big theaters" — the Kado no Shibai — in 10/1861. Enjaku produced at least four works related to this jidaimono ("period piece" or history play: 時代物), which was based on intrigues involving the Takeda and Uesugi (Nagao) clans after the murder of the shôgun Ashikaga Yoshiteru.

Enjaku Wakagi no adanagusaOriginally a puppet play premiering in 1/1766 in Osaka, the tale features Princess Yaegaki of the Nagao clan. She is betrothed to Takeda Katsuyori who is searching for a precious heirloom helmet hidden away at the Nagao palace. Late in the play she prays before the helmet, whereupon a fox spirit comes to her aid, allowing her to cross safely over a frozen lake to warn Katsunori about a plot to murder him. Ultimately, the conflict ends with the reconciliation of the Nagao and Takeda clans. Enjaku's print depicts Yaeaki holding the helmet (mostly covered by a cloth) while dressed in elaborate courtly robes. The background offers an impressive display of shibori-pattern fabrics (絞り), or dappled (dots, a shaped-resist or tie-dyed cloth), arranged as if they were cusped clouds, along with a jôruri script incsribed on two open manuscript pages.

Enjaku was perhaps the most interesting transitional artist in the late 1850s-early 1860s shortly before the final period of Osaka printmaking. All the surviving prints bearing Enjaku's signature demonstrate a refined sensibility. The color palette is rich but well balanced, still avoiding the garishness that would creep into some later Osaka printmaking. The facial lines are thin and precisely carved and printed, and the clothing patterns are detailed but not overwrought. While the identity of the artist remains a mystery, he must have been held in high regard, given his many deluxe prints, which were more expensive to produce than the conventional standard editions. He brought a fresh new intelligence to the established Osaka ukiyo-e style and seemed a near-perfect match for the brilliance of the master carvers and printers of his time.

Another design by Enjaku is illustrated and discussed in relation to distinguishing between deluxe and standard editions (see Enjaku editions). © 1999-2020 by John Fiorillo


  • Fiorillo, J. and Lühl, H.: "Enjaku: An Osaka master of the deluxe print during the transition to the final period," in: Andon, special issue, Dec. 2006.
  • Keyes, R. and Mizushima, K.: The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973.
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