Kunichika, 100 Roles of Ichikawa Danjuro IX - Kamakura Gongoro Kagemasa

Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900) One Hundred Roles of Ichikawa Danjuro IX: Kamakura Gongoro Kagemasa, 1894. Deluxe Oban.

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One of Kunichika’s swan song series, the One Hundred Roles of Ichikawa Danjuro is a magnificent achievement, summarising both the triumph of kabuki and its demise. The collaboration between the greatest theatre artist and the theatre’s greatest star was legendary and this fine series is its testament. The figure here is the dramatic warrior Kamakura Gongoro Kagemasa, but the star is the actor and the pushy lineage from which he comes. The climactic moment of this short work takes place when a samurai is being assaulted by a villain. Kagemasa shouts "Shibaraku!" (Wait a Minute!) loudly from behind a curtain and then steps out onto the raised platform extending through the audience, in magnificent costume and makeup. He goes on to explain his story and drives the villains off stage. As the curtain falls he addresses the audience not as the hero, but as the actor. The work is derived from an actual occurrence involving Danjuro I. On that occasion, when the other actors refused to give him his cue, Danjuro dramatically shouted "Shibaraku!" and stepped onto the stage, making his entrance.

It is a truly great print - probably the finest in the series. The cartouche is richly embossed with a cheesecloth pattern and different areas are burnished or else sprinkled with mica. The cartouche in the upper right contains the peony flowers of the Danjuro clan and the actor gazes from behind his mask of stiffened fright-hair and kumadori make up - a terrifying visage atop the great stiffened gown of red, adorned with the Ichikawa crest of three concentric rice measures in contrasting white.

The print is full size, untrimmed and of the first, deluxe edition. Colour and impression are fine, the condition also except for some slight aging of the paper.

Published by Fukuda Kumajiro, signed Kunichika Toyohara hitsu.

25cm x 36 cm.