Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900
Flowers of Tokyo: Kunichika's Caricatures: no. 1, Watonai
(Auma no hana Kunichika manga: Watonai)
deluxe impression with metallic highlights, burnishing on the black details on his robe, and karazuri (blind-printing) of a cloth-like texture in the title and signature cartouches, signed Toyohara Kunichika hitsu, artist's seal Toshidama, publisher's seal Man, hanmoto, Nihonbashi, Manson, Tori Ichi (Yorozuya Magobei of Kinkeido), carver's seal Horiko Hidekatsu (Ota Hidekatsu), date seal Mizunoe, saru-shichi (year of the monkey , 7th month)
oban tate-e 14 1/4 by 9 1/2 in., 36.1 by 24.1 cm
The actor Kawarazaki Sansho (Kawarazaki Gonjuro I, 1838-1903) in the role of Watonai, the half-Chinese, half-Japanese pirate who helped reinstate the Ming dynasty, from the play Kokusenya kassen (Watonai and the Battles of Coxinga). The son of an exiled Chinese minister, Watonai was living the simple life of a fisherman when the sister of the murdered Chinese Emperor came unexpectedly to his island Matsura, on the western coast fo Japan. Through many adventures and battles, Watonai helped her restore her nephew, the rightful Emperor, to the throne and return the Ming Dynasty to power. A popular scene from the play involves Watonai subduing a tiger, hence many of his representations show him wrestling or triumphant over one such beast.
Arendie and Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 109-113
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.34916
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