Paul Binnie, Nakamura Utaemon as Agemaki

Paul Binnie, Scottish, b. 1967

A Great Mirror of the Actors of the Heisei Period: Actor Nakamura Utaemon as Agemaki in Sukeroku
(Heisei yakusha o-kagami: Utaemon - Agemaki)

with light mica dusted over the printed coral background; the series and print titles at upper left, with numbed limited edition cartouche jusan/hyaku (13/100), signed in sumi kanji, Bin-ni with artist's seal Binnie, date seal Heisei kyu-nen (Heisei 9 [1997]), pencil-numbered and -signed on the bottom margin 13/100, Paul Binnie

dai oban tate-e 17 3/8 by 12 1/8 in., 44.2 by 30.8 cm

This composition is the first design from the Heisei yakusha o-kagami series of five designs published in 1997 which was the artist's third kabuki actor series and featured actors in roles that he saw performed live in his capacity as an ear piece guide at the Kabuki-za in Tokyo.

This print depicts the actor Nakamura Utaemon VI (1917-2001) in the role of Agemaki from the play Sukeroku (Sukeroku). Agemaki is a sometimes intoxicated courtesan of the Edo pleasure district who is deeply in love with a hot-headed patron, Sukeroku. Sukeroku, as it turns out, has ulterior motives for picking fights around the pleasure houses. His father was murdered, and their family's ancestral sword was stolen. In enticing other guests to draw their swords, he is hoping to come upon the sword that was stolen. Driven by her love, Agemaki assists Sukeroku in his investigation, and stands by him when he finally encounters his foe, the evil samurai Ikyu.

Utaemon VI was regarded as one of the greatest post-war onnagata, and formally designated a Living National Treasure by the Japanese government in 1968. In spite of the advanced age which shows on his face, one can be assured that this man had the strength to perform what was a physically demanding role. The elaborate wig alone was a great burden, and one which he wore with grace.

Arendie and Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 103-108 (re: play)
Paul Binnie: A Dialogue with the Past - The First 100 Japanese Prints, 2007, p. 86, no. 44



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