Utagawa Toyokuni I, 1769-1825
Segawa Kikunojo III and Sawamura Genosuke I
grey ground embellished with a dusting of mica; signed Toyokuni ga with publisher's seal Sen'ichi han (Izumiya Ichibei of Kansendo), ca. 1794
oban tate-e 15 1/4 by 10 3/8 in., 38.8 by 26.2 cm
This print is from a small group of untitled full-length oban-sized portraits of kabuki actors on stage published by Izumiya Ichibei. The style of the artist's signature helps date the design to circa 1794, the year Toyokuni began producing his pivotal series, Portraits of Actors on Stage (Yakusha butai no sugata-e) with that publisher. Prints from the series, sometimes embellished with mica, presented images of actors in an identical format against a stark background. That series of fifty-two extant designs helped position Toyokuni as a leading kabuki artist at the young age of twenty-five, and he would go on to develop his own school of Utagawa artists who would dominate much of ukiyo-e production into the next century.
This particular design from the related untitled group of portraits is rather scarce and the identities of the actors and their roles have not been firmly established. The crest on the kimono of the young boy points to the Sawamura lineage of actors. In circa 1794, Sawamura Genosuke I (Sawamura Sojuro IV, 1784-1812), would have been 10 years old and a good match for this portrait of a youthful thespian with full jowls, much like his famous father, Sawamura Sojuro III (1753-1801). The onnagata (actor in a female role) is not displaying an identifying actor's crest, however the distinctive stylization of the face compares extremely closely with Toyokuni's manner of portraying the legendary onnagata, Segawa Kikunojo III (Segawa Senjo, 1751-1810). One of several convincing comparisons is evident in a 1798 half-length portrait by Toyokuni in the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (see detail). Kikunojo III and the Sawamura family were associated with the Miyako-za theater (which had obtained its license from the defunct Nakamuraza in the fall of 1793) and in the first month of 1795, Kikunojo played opposite the boy's father (who had recently returned from a tour of the Kamigata region with his son) in the first Edo production of the tragic love story Godairiki Koi no Fujime.
Shoriya Aragoro, kabuki21.com
Maribeth Graybill, ed., The Artist's Touch, The Craftsman's Hand, 2011, p. 86, no. 18 (onnagata identified as Nakamura Noshio II in the role of Lady Chiyo from the play 'Terakoya' [The Village School], with a child actor in the role of her son Kotaro)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, ex William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, 11.24975 (1798 portrait of Segawa Kikunojo III by Toyokuni) and accession no. 11.13525 (this portrait)
Portland Art Museum, ex Mary Andrew Ladd Collection, accession no. 32.345
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