UTAGAWA KUNISADA, YAKUSHA KIJINDEN 役者畸人伝 , 1833

Utagawa Kunisada, Yakusha kijinden, 1833  

Artist: Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 (1786-1865)

Author: Utei Enba II 烏亭焉馬 (1743-1822)

Title: Yakusha Kijinden 役者畸人伝 

Date: 1833

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink on paper. 

Publisher: Edo: Yamaguchiya Tōbē 山口屋藤兵衛, Nishimuraya Yohachi 西村屋与八, Moriya Jihe 森屋治兵衛

Donor: Presented by Arthur Tress. Arthur Tress Collection, Box 10, Item 9. 

https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502566603681

The Yakusha kijinden or ‘Biographies of Eccentric actors’ is a four volume biographic account of four kabuki actors: Ichikawa Ebizō V 五代目市川海老蔵 (1791–1859), Segawa Kikunojō V 五代目瀬川菊之丞 (1802–1832), Sawamura Tosshō I 初代沢村訥升 (1802–1853), and Nakamura Shikan II 二代目中村芝翫 (1798–1852). Compiled by Utei Enba II, the volumes narrate personal anecdotes and praise the lineages and accomplishments of these actors. Kunisada, well-known for his actor prints, shows the actors in this Yakusha-e in roles they were well-known for as well as in roles that would suit them. Each volume contains historical information accompanied by images printed using multiple blocks and atleast three different kinds of ink. 

This illustration shows the actor Nakamura Shikan II as Ishikawa Goemon, a Japanese outlaw hero, gesticulating towards the courtesan Gion no Oritsu, played by Iwai Hanshirō. Kunisada’s signature can be seen on the bottom right.  

Kunisada trained under Utagawa Tokuyuni (1769-1825), producing prints in “traditional” genres such as kabuki, shunga, and historical prints. This 4 volume set is said to be one of Kunisada’s finest. Utei Enba II was a well-known satirist and frequently hosted many theatrical and literary assemblies. 

Other copies:

Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Hiroshima University

Kyoto Prefectural Library and Archives

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

National Diet Library, Tokyo

Nishio City Iwase Bunko, Aichi Prefecture

Osaka City University

Seikadō Bunko Art Museum, Tokyo

Tōhoku University, Sendai

Tokyo University of the Arts

University of Tokyo

Waseda University Theater Museum, Tokyo

Selected Readings:

Hillier, J.  The Art of the Japanese Book. Published for Sotheby’s Publications by Philip Wilson Publishers ; Distributed in the U.S. by Harper & Row London : New York,  1987, 582-3.

Izzard, Sebastian., J. Thomas Rimer, and John T Carpenter. Kunisada’s World. New York: Japan Society, in collaboration with Ukiyo-e Society of America, 1993. 

Tinios, Ellis., and Kunisada Utagawa. Mirror of the Stage: The Actor Prints of Kunisada. Leeds: University Gallery Leeds, 1996

 

Posted by Ayesha Sheth, October 4, 2019

 

UTAGAWA KUNISADA 歌川国貞, ICHIKAWA SANSHŌ KYŌKA

Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (signed Kochoro Kunisada ga with double toshidama artist’s seal)

Title: [Ichikawa Sanshō kyōka]

Date: ca. 1829-30

Medium: color woodblock-printed illustrated book; folding album (orihon)

Measurements: 14 cm x 21.1 cm

Publisher: private publication

Arthur Tress Collection of Japanese Illustrated Books. Box 10, Item 5: https://franklin.library.upenn.edu/catalog/FRANKLIN_9977502567803681

The dedication page to this delicate folding album announces the contents as a collection of kyōka poetry in honor of the famed kabuki actor, Danjūrō VII (1791-1859). Sebastian Izzard has dated the book to late 1829, produced when Danjūrō was performing at the Nakamuraza theater in Osaka, and suggests the work was sent to him by the poetry group who commissioned it.[1]

Heading off the text are three color prints designed by Kunisada, who also contributed poetry to the volume. The illustrations memorialize Danjūrō’s performance at Nakamuraza, in which he assumed seven roles in the play Date kurabe Okuni Kabuki. The most dramatic moment is depicted across two facing full pages, set against a black ground. Danjūrō is illustrated simultaneously as the heroic Arajishi Otokonosuke (on the right) and the evil Nikko Danjō (on the left). Next, spreading the subsequent opening, the polymorphic actor is rendered as three personages at once: the wrestler Kinugawa Tanizō on the right; the evil priest, Date no Dōtetsu; and finally Ashikaga Yorikane intently watching the action from behind his open fan on the left.[2]

The ensuing poems are printed on heavyweight paper embossed with peonies, and capped by a colophon listing the book’s editors. Many of the approximately 180 poems address and praise Danjūrō or make puns or references to his various roles or nicknames.[3] The soft front and back covers exhibit a motif of purple peony blooms (an emblem of Danjūrō VII) and bats (a symbol of good luck).

Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) was a prolific print designer in the realm of ukiyo-e. Enchanted by the dynamic kabuki scene in Edo from a young age, the artist began his career as an apprentice in the studio of Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825), a pioneer of actor prints. Kunisada quickly made a name for himself, becoming exceedingly popular for his portraits of actors and backstage views. Contributions to the genres of landscapes, beauties, and erotica also comprise the artist’s extensive output. He was often tapped to produce surimono, of which this entry is an impressive example, demonstrating the care and expense associated with private commissions. While extant copies of this particular book are rare, Danjūrō VII was a frequent subject for Kunisada throughout their parallel and symbiotic careers. 

Other copies:

Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library. “Zō Sanshōshi kyōka.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 22, 2019. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-caab-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

A copy of the book’s first illustration and text page survives as a sheet in the collection of The Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna.

https://sammlung.mak.at/en/collection_online?id=collect-195449

Selected reading:

Izzard, Sebastian. Kunisada’s World. New York: Japan Society Inc., 1993. Illustrated in figures 52/1, 52/2, and 52a, 117-119.

Izzard, Sebastian. “A New Actor Painting by Utagawa Kunisada.” Impressions, no. 20 (1998): 78–81. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42598042.

 

[1]Sebastian Izzard, Kunisada’s World (New York: Japan Society, 1993), 117-118. Izzard notes the poets included are masters from important poetry groups, including: Jingairō, Hōshitei, Umenoya, Fukunoya, Hōraitei Kamenari, Goryūtei Tokunari, and Bumbunsha Kanikomaru.

[2] Izzard, Kunisada’s World, 118. Izzard suggests Kunisada could have based his illustrations on Danjūrō’s performance of the same play in Edo earlier in 1829.

[3] Izzard, Kunisada’s World, 117.

Posted by Zoe Coyle, Fall semester, 2019.

UTAGAWA TOYOKUNI 歌川豊国, YAKUSHA KONOTE GASHIWA 役者此手嘉志和, 1803

Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni歌川豊国

Title:  Yakusha konote gashiwa 役者此手嘉志和

Date: ca. 1803 (享和3)

Medium: Woodblock printed; ink and color on paper; paper covers

Publisher: Maruya Jinpachi (丸屋甚八)(Marujin, Enjudō)

Location: Kislak Center for Special Collections – Arthur Tress Collection. Box 10, Item 2. See link.

Gift of Arthur Tress

Utagawa Toyokuni’s Yakusha konote gashiwa (1803) consists of 2 volumes in which 24 lower and higher ranked actors are represented, and, like actor prints (yakusha-e), offered the possibility to extend the actors’ expression beyond the stage of the theater. Each volume of the picture-book is composed of 6 double-page illustrations, depicting two types of half-length portraits of individual actors: one on the right page reflecting the actor’s onstage character and one on the left page referring to the actor’s everyday appearance. The first volume of the book contains portraits of many kabuki stars, such as Ichikawa Danjūrō VII and Iwai Kumesaburō (Iwai Hanshirō V). In the second volume we find actors such as Segawa Kikunojō III and Ichikawa Hakuen (Ichikawa Danjūrō V).[1]

Including an actor’s two sides—on-stage and off-stage—can be connected to increased public interest in the actor’s likenesses (nigao-e)[2]. In the 1770s, the first recognizable portraits of actors appeared in Japanese actor prints. This went hand in hand with the introduction of half-length close-up portraits of actors in prints, emphasizing their facial features and expressions.[3] The picture-book itself however, does not refer directly to the actor’s individual names and does not contain any more specific information on the actors themselves.[4] Sometimes the actor’s crest alludes to the identity of an actor: for example, on the cover of the volumes we find the actor crest of Ichikawa Danjūrō ()[5]. Since specific information on the actors is not included, the picture-book was probably intended for readers familiar with kabuki culture.

The Japanese artist Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825) is primarily known for his actor prints (yakusha-e) of the kabuki theater, particularly for the high level of individualization that these include. Toyokuni was part of the Utagawa school, founded by his teacher, Utagawa Toyoharu. Thanks to Toyokuni, the Utagawa school came to dominate the world of ukiyo-e with their prints of beauties and actors from the late eighteenth-century through the nineteenth-century.[6] Toyokuni’s students included Utagawa Kunisada and Utagawa Kuniyoshi, also featured on this website.

Another impression of this print is in the Pulverer Collection. Other copies can be found in Hōso Bunko (Nagoya), Iwase Bunko (Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture), Museum of Fine Arts (Boston), National Diet Library (Tokyo), Tokyo National Museum, and University of Tsukuba Library.

Selected Readings

  • Andrew Gerstle, Akiko Yano, and Timothy Clark, Kabuki heroes on the Osaka stage 1780-1830 (British Museum Press & University of Hawai’i Press, 2005).
  • Hans Bjarne Thomsen et al., Japanische holzschnitte aus der sammlung Ernst Grosse = Japanese woodblock prints from the Ernst Grosse collection (Petersberg: Michael Imhof Verlag, 2018), p. 149.
  • Higuchi Kazutaka and Alfred Haft, “No Laughing Matter: A Ghastly “Shunga” Illustration by Utagawa Toyokuni, Japan Review (2013), pp. 239-255.
  • Richard Lane, Images from the Floating World: The Japanese Print (Konecky & Konecky, 1978).
  • Ryōko Matsuba and Timothy Clark, “Kabuki Actors in Erotic Books (‘Shunpon’),” Japan Review (2013), pp. 215-237.
  • Suzuki Jūzō 鈴木重三, Yakusha ehon no kōyō「役者絵本の効用, in Ehon to ukiyo-e『増補絵本と浮世絵』 (Tokyo: Perikansha, 2017), p. 522.
  • Timothy Clark, Osamu Ueda, and D. Jenkins. The Actor’s Image: Printmakers of the Katsukawa School (Princeton: Princeton University press, 1994).

Posted by Hilda Groen

October 5, 2019

[1] Yakusha konote gashiwa in Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. http://pulverer.si.edu/node/551/title/1/0, accessed on 19 September 2019.

[2] Matsuba Ryoko, “Kabuki Actors in Erotic Books (Shunpon),” Japan Review (2013), pp. 215–37

[3] Andrew Gerstle, Yano Akiko and Timothy Clark, Kabuki Heroes on the Osaka stage 1780-1830 (British Museum Press & University of Hawaii Press, 2005), p. 41.

[4] Yakusha konote gashiwa. http://pulverer.si.edu/node/551/title/1/0, accessed on 19 September 2019.

[5] Richard Lane, Images from the Floating World: The Japanese Print (Konecky & Konecky, 1978), pp. 205-206.

[6] Kazutaka Higuchi and Alfred Haft, ‘No Laughing Matter: A Ghastly “Shunga” Illustration by Utagawa Toyokuni’, Japan Review (2013), pp. 243-244.