Kunisada, Actor Ichikawa Ichizo III in the Dressing Room

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Actor Ichikawa Ichizô III in the Dressing Room, 1862. Oban.

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An outstanding print, similar in many ways to the Kunichika in this selection, an intimate portrait of an actor backstage preparing to go out and perform. Like the previous Kunichika print, the actor is being assisted by a partially seen dresser. What is so interesting in these and many other backstage scenes is the mysterious way that the artists conceal the identity of the secondary figure. In Kunichika’s tremendous series, the dressers are all seen in a projected silhouette thrown onto a paper screen. In the various prints of Kunisada’s the dresser is shown as here, from the waist down or perhaps concealed behind garments. The presence of the figures remains deferential, a great skill in drawing - we do not perhaps think that these figures are impresarios or managers… we read them as servants.

Here we see the actor Ichikawa Ichizô III, against the yellow striped curtain of the stage preparing to go on, the dresser in black robes holds up a garment for the actor who is finishing his stage preparations before rising. The silver mirror is seen on the right edge, tooled and dimpled, leaning against a lacquered wooden stand. Ichizo has a cloth scarf around his neck to protect his stage clothes from make up. He died young, in his early thirties, and perhaps this print acts as a memorial. A copy of this print is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Colour and impression are fine, full-size, condition fine with thin album backing.

Publisher: Tsujiya Yasubei.

24 x 36 cm.