Kunichika, Ichikawa Danjuro as Soga Goro

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) Ichikawa Danjuro as Soga Goro, 1880’s. Oban Triptych.

This exuberant and fascinating triptych celebrates the actor crests or mons of the kabuki theatre. Danjuro, on the left, is heavily made up as the character of Soga Goro exacting revenge on the assassins of his father. Kudo Suketsune killed Kawazu-Saburo who left two infant boys, Juro and Goro. Their mother remarried and they took their stepfather’s name of Soga. At five, they vowed revenge on their father’s death and by maturity they were committed to carry out the plan. After prolonged and complicated adventures they attacked the enemy but Juro was killed in the fight and, as we see in the print, Goro hunts down Kudo and kills him. The Shogun is moved to pardon Goro but in the end is obliged to order his execution.

What is fascinating in this print is the medallion display of actor and other crests in the background. The three narrow bands representing three rice measures of the Ichikawa clan form the boundary of the right hand  side of the print and the Nakamura clan motif on the left. The Nakamura family crest of crossed song book scrolls is visible above the actor’s head in the left hand sheet and the crane, also associated with the clan is visible on the kimono of the actor. Danjuro’s kimono is decorated with the butterfly motif most often associated with the Soga brothers.

This is a fine and unusual design, the print is decorated with burnishing and the colour and impression are very good. There is some light soiling to the surface in places, overall the condition is good.