Kunichika, 100 Roles of Baiko - Sayuri

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) One Hundred Roles of Baiko:Onoe Kikugoro V as Sayuri, 1893. Oban.

Almost a sister series to the 100 roles of Ichikawa Danjuro, this series celebrates the theatrical roles of kabuki actor Onoe Kikugoro V (1844 - 1903) who was known by his popular name Baiko. It differs from that series in the inclusion of a theatrical scene and minor portrait in the upper register of the print - in this case the samurai Watanabe no Tsuna played by Ichikawa Sadanji.

This print pictures Baiko playing the role of the witch demon Sayuri who disguises herself as a beautiful maiden and awaits Tsuna by a river bridge. She tries to seduce him via a long and elaborate dance, in kabuki a shosagoto. At the last minute, Tsuna sees the reflection of her true form in the river. Sayuri leaves the stage but returns wearing a hideous mask and an elaborate dance-fight ensues ending with the witch flying off and Tsuna slicing off her arm which he holds triumphantly aloft.

Kunichika pictures Baiko in the role of Sayuri prior to his transformation into the demon, the concealed left hand an indication of the consequences of the  fight to follow. The witch is dancing alluringly, a fan in her right hand. In the upper register we see Tsuna, dressed as a samurai staring suspiciously at Baiko’s female demon.

This is a great print, a fine copy with strong colour, mica shading and very deep blind embossing, the print is full size with margins and is in fine condition except for binding holes to the right hand edge.

Signed Toyohara Kunichika hitsu with Toshidama seal. Published by Fukuda Kumajiro and Kahei.

A copy of this print is in the collection of the Museum of Art and Design Kyoto.