Utagawa Kunisada, Actor Ichikawa Shinnosuke IV as Nagao Saburo Kagekatsu

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865

Actor Ichikawa Shinnosuke IV (Akambei, Toshimasu) as Nagao Saburo Kagekatsu
(Ichikawa Shinnosuke, Nagao Saburo Kagekatsu)

signed Nanajuhassai (at the age of seventy-eight) Toyokuni ga, publisher's seal Sho, Kinshodo (Ebisuya Shoshichi, 1846-1883) carver's seal Matsushima Hori Masu, censor and date seal I-nana, aratame (year of the boar [1863], 7th month, examined)

oban tate-e 14 1/4 by 9 3/4 in., 36.3 by 24.8 cm

The Actor Ichikawa Shinnosuke IV (Ichikawa Ebizo VIII, 1845-1886) is in the role of Nagao Saburo Kagekatsu from the play Honcho Nijushiko (The Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety in Japan). The play relates to the infamous rivalry between the Takeda and Uesugi (here called Nagao) clans. Kagekatsu is the son of the head of the Nagao clan who enlists the support of the warrior Yokozo. Much of the drama in the play surrounds the impact of Yokozo and his brother's divergent allegiances, and the toll it takes on their shared obligations to their mother.

This print is from a lavish series of portraits which Kunisada undertook very late in life and has been named Kinshodo-ban yakusha okubi-e (Kinshodo's Large-Head Actor Portraits) in reference to the publisher, Ebisuya Shochochi of Kinshodo. The series depicted great actors from the past and present in famous roles. Kunisada was guided by images from his own oeuvre or portraits by his teacher, Utagawa Toyokuni I (1769-1825). As this was meant to be Kunisada's grandest actor series, it was executed on thick paper with the best possible pigments and highest level of craftsmanship.

Reference:
Aubrey S. and Giovanna M. Halford, The Kabuki Handbook, 1956, pp. 66-76

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