Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839 - 1892) Ichimura Kakitsu IV (Baiko) as Kogitsune Reizaburo, c 1864. Oban.
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An unknown early actor portrait by Yoshitoshi. The actor and role are assumptions, but I remain reasonably convinced of their accuracy. This print and its companion print of Nakamura Shikan IV as Kato Kiyomasa derive from a British collection and have survived the ravages of time pretty well. This print has some damage to the bottom edge and some worm damage which has been fortified on the bottom edge.
It is a striking design and untypical of Yoshitoshi even at the time… 1864 when he was struggling to survive as a young artist just out of the shadow of his teacher Kuniyoshi. He was apprenticed to Kuniyoshi, whose seal (the kiri or paulownia leaf) he co-opted in the 1860’s and is visible on this print. Yoshitoshi enjoyed a close relationship with Kuniyoshi who gave him his name. Kuniyoshi died in 1861 and Yoshitoshi was somewhat cast out of the circle of ukiyo-e artists; the death of his father in 1863 also contributed to his depressive illness. One can speculate that Yoshitoshi’s predilection for drawing heroes and warriors stems from these early powerful influences in his life.
The actor here was also starting out on a great career. It is the great Onoe Kikugoro V… better known as Baiko, but at this early stage in his career he had the name Ichimura Kakitsu IV. Kakitsu performed the role in the play Koharunagi Okitsu Shiranami at the Ichimuraza in 1864. The play has been recently revived and there is a clip available on Youtube. A complex plot which typically intertwines two plots… one more mainstream and involving major characters from history and another minor plot… ‘the other side of the leaf’ which involved contemporary townspeople. Kogitsune is a thief and magician skilled in fox magic. I think the print depicts the second act where Kogitsune changes a lone house in the mountain into the pampas grass fields (the moon) and then into the scene of cherry blossoms in full bloom. The moon is visible behind the autumn leaves, Kogitsune holds a scroll of paper in supplication… or defiance.
A very rare print indeed that appears not to be held in any of the museum collections or online. It is a survivor of a probably short print run, from, at the time, a little known artist. Yoshitoshi shows the actor in characteristic mie, the eyes squinted in dramatic pose. A beautiful arrangement of colours and a fine and confident design.
Colour and impression are very good. The condition is fair. The bottom edge has some losses and there is a wormhole to the shoulder. The losses have been strengthened by restoration.
Signed: Ikkaisai Yoshitoshi.
Published by Kakumotoya Kinjirō.
25 x 37 cm.