Kunisada, Arashi Rikaku II in the dance Ayatsuri Sambaso

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Arashi Rikaku II in the dance Ayatsuri Sambaso, 1853. Oban.

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A print of great delicacy and beauty. We see the kabuki actor Arashi Rikaku II dressed in the traditional robes of the Sambaso Dancer. The dances of the Sambaso are ancient and predate kabuki. As such they are auspicious and are danced at say, the opening of a new season of plays or at the inauguration of a theatre. Some involve chanting and incantation of words that are now lost or have at least lost their meaning, lending a still greater mystique to the performance.

Originally the dance consisted of actors dressed as old men. The dances evolved and elaborate costumes and characters were adopted. In this the Ayatsuri Sambaso, the dancers emulate the movement of puppets on strings, (at some performances, the dancer pretends that the strings are tangled or broken and an assistant rushes on stage to effect a fake repair) this print commemorates the first performance of the dance in 1853. Sambaso dancers are always colourfully dressed. They feature an elaborate hat, pictured here, around fifteen inches tall, black with gold stripes and large roundels on either side.  The hat tapers to the crown and ties beneath the chin.

Arashi Rikaku II  is perhaps best known for reviving the dance and making it popular once more - it is still performed to this day.

The print is very delicate and very beautiful. The commemoration of such an important dance makes it highly collectible. Colour and impression are all fine with embossing to the feathers and burnishing on the hat. The print is published by Ebisuya Shoshichi, renowned for high quality production. Condition is good overall., there are some worn areas to the margins and some surface damage.

26cm x 36cm.