Shin ei, Sawamura Gennosuke IV as Nikki Danjo

Shin'ei, dates unknown

Sawamura Gennosuke IV as Nikki Danjo

signed Shin'ei hitsu, with publisher Matsuki Heikichi's mark and seal, Ryogoku Ohira ban, ca. 1920s

oban tate-e 15 3/8 by 10 1/8 in., 38.9 by 25.8 cm

An okubi-e portrait of an actor wearing a grey kataginu (wing-shouldered jacket), his make-up accenting his eyes and the down-turned corners of his mouth. The wig is in the style of ende-no-Kichiemon-gatachi, that is, the 'swallow tail' at the back popularized by the actor Kichiemon. He wears an expression of tension, and a daub of dark red on his forehead suggests a wound.

The actor's mon (crest) of three ginko leaves identifies him as Sawamura Gennosuke IV (1859-1936). While the wound on the forehead and the grey mole above the left eyebrow indicates that the role is the wicked magician Nikki Danjo (who transforms himself from a rat into a human) from the play Sendai hagi (Sendai bush clover).

Ruth M. Merritt, Kabuki Costume, 1966, p. 317
Helen Merritt, Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints, 1992, p. 137
Arendie & Henk Herwig, Heroes of the kabuki stage, 1994, pp. 243-249


Natori Shunsen, Sawamura  Gennosuke IV as Nikki Danjo

Natori Shunsen, 1886-1960

Collection of Shunsen Portraits: Sawamura Gennosuke IV as Nikki Danjo
(Shunsen Nigao-e Shu: Sawamura Gennosuke IV)

signed Kunshido Shunsen ga, with artist's seal Shunsen, publisher's seal Watanabe-ko (Watanabe Shozaburo) at right edge, and artist's approval seal Natori at lower right corner, ca. 1928

dai oban tate-e 15 1/2 by 10 3/4 in., 39.4 by 27.3 cm

The actor is in the role of Nikki Danjo, the lead villain from the popular play Sendai hagi ('Sendai bushclover') which was based on historical events involving a failed attempted assassination of a young heir to the Date clan by disloyal retainers in 1660. The story was adapted and fictionalized by Nagawa Kamesuke, and first staged in Osaka in 1777. The character of Nikki Danjo, an evil magician who was able to transform himself into and out of the form of a rat, became a standard role for leading actors; and the costume of a grey kimono with a patterned band (noshime) across the chest made the wicked wizard easily identifiable on stage and in promotions for the productions. In this depiction, he is holding his hands in a magical gesture that produces the transformation from rat to human form- only moments earlier he was in the form of a rat carrying in his mouth a scroll which reveals the names of the fellow-conspirators. The mark on his head is a wound inflicted by the loyal retainer Arajishi Otokonosuke who hits him with a fan while Danjo is in the form of a rat.

Yamaguchi Keizoro, Natori Shunsen (exhibition catalogue), Kushigata, 1991, no. 39
Arendie & Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, Hotei Publishing, 2004, p. 242, pl. 24.1

Stage Idols: Japanese Kabuki Theater, The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, February 2008 - January 2009



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