Kunichika, Actors on Battledores - Ichikawa Sadanji as Daiba no Jinzo

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Actors on Battledores: Ichikawa Sadanji as Daiba no Jinzo in the play Choseiden Kogane no Shikigawara, 1880’s. Koban.

This small print is from a rare series of koban prints done in the 1880’s of well known kabuki actors pictured as if painted on the backs of battledore bats. Battledore is similar to badminton and originated in Japan in the 1600’s as the game Hanetsuki. Kunichika started his career as an artist being employed to paint the reverse sides of the bats which by the Edo period had developed religious, superstitious and cultural value (battledore bats were by then traditional good luck gifts for new born girls). This koban sized series willl have had particular significance then for Kunichika.

This type of print is the nearest that true ukiyo-e gets to the western idea of the still life. Here Kunichika pictures the bat and a decorative ball in three dimensions; the actor portrait being in two dimensions when viewed in the shallow space of the picture.

This print shows a portrait of the kabuki actor Bando Hikasoburo in the play Choseiden Kogane no Shikigawara. Sadanji was one of the great triumvirate of actors who dominated the Meiji kabuki scene.

The print is full size and in fine condition. The colour and impression all fine.

12.5 x 18cm.