Kunisada, Portrait of the Actor Ichikawa Ichizo

Utagawa Kunisada/Toyokuni III (1786-1865) Portrait of the Actor Ichikawa Ichizo, 1864. Deluxe Oban.

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This great portrait of the kabuki actor Ichikawa Ichizo probably portrays him as the theatre anti hero Orochimaru. The story of Jiraiya is a classic of kabuki and tells of the magician Jiraiya who has the ability to transform into a giant toad. The heir of a major clan, Jiraiya falls in love with Tsunade, who can perform slug magic. His arch enemy is his ex pupil Orochimaru who is a master of serpent magic. In the kabuki play, Orochimaru is not evil but possessed of the the spirit of a giant and wicked snake and related to Jiraiya. Following the usual complexities of the plot, they are all united and Orochimaru is pardoned following his exorcism.

Here we see the powerful figure of snake magic, his clothing decorated with serpents, he himself clutching a banner with thunderous clouds that represent dark magic; and the sign of the moon. The strange hair is a wig that was also used by actors to denote the roles associated with outlaws, evildoers and bandits.

These late prints of Kunisada are some of the best of his career. With the ample help of a large studio and the sudden advances in printing technique and materials he was able to realise a great deal of vision in prints that have a density and concentration lacking in some of his mid career works. Fine impression, colour and condition. Heavily burnished throughout with mica ground in the background.

Published by Itoya Tokichi.

37 x 26 cm.

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Kunisada, Portrait of the Actor Ichikawa Ichizo