Toyohara Kunichika Shinsui V

Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900

Mirror Sketches from the Backstage Dressing Room: [Bando] Shinsui V
(Shashin gakuya kagami: Shinsui)

signed Kunichika hitsu with red Toshidama seal, publisher's seal (partially trimmed) Tsunoi (Tsunokuniya Isaburo), ca. 1868-69

oban tate-e 14 1/2 by 9 5/8 in., 36.8 by 24.3 cm

With the opening of the port of Yokohama to foreign ships in 1859, Western goods and materials which previously had been exotic, expensive, and quite often nearly unobtainable, were suddenly readily available and reasonably acquired. The modern looking glass, although far more easily broken than a heavy bronze disc, offered a more practical and realistic reflection of the viewer, and as such, very quickly replaced traditional polished bronze Japanese mirrors. Kunichika alludes to this new realism in this rare series by presenting true portraits of the actors, not as we see them, but as they see themselves in their own looking glass. In this example, Kunichika captures an intense moment in the reflection of Bando Shinsui V (Hikosaburo V, 1832-1877), with a copy of his libretto resting against his shoulder. The poem in the lobed-flower cartouche is signed with his poetry name, Shinsui. Hikosaburo V was one of the most talented kabuki actors of the mid to late 19th century, his virtuosity in portraying a wide range of roles was much like his contemporary and greatest rival, Nakamura Shikan IV (1831-99).

References:
Amy Reigle Newland, Time Present and Time Past: Images of a Forgotten Master: Toyohara Kunichika, 1999, p. 91, cat. no. 61 (for another print from this scarce series)
Tokyo Metropolitan Library, acquisition no. 577-C003-02
Waseda University Theatre Museum, acquisition no. 007-2268

$900

Toyohara Kunichika Shinsui V

Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900

Mirror Sketches from the Backstage Dressing Room: [Nakamura] Shikan IV
(Shashin gakuya kagami: Shikan)

signed Kunichika hitsu with red Toshidama seal, published by Tsunoi (Tsunokuniya Isaburo), ca. 1868-69

oban tate-e 14 1/2 by 9 5/8 in., 36.8 by 24.3 cm

In this example, Kunichika illustrates the actor Nakamura Shikan IV (1831-1899) brushing on his eyebrows in preparation for a performance. The poem in the lobed-flower cartouche is signed with his stage name, Shikan. He was one of the biggest and most versatile kabuki actors during the later half of the 19th century, traveling often to perform throughout Japan. His talents were nearly equally matched with that of Bando Hikosaburo V (1832-1877), fueling a legendary rivalry between the two virtuoso that apocrypally nearly came to blows.

While few prints from this series are extant, this design seems to be particuarly rare, and possibly unrecorded.

References:
Amy Reigle Newland, Time Present and Time Past: Images of a Forgotten Master: Toyohara Kunichika, 1999, p. 91, cat. no. 61 (for another print in this scarce series)

$1,400

kikumon

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site last updated
December 6, 2018

Scholten Japanese Art
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ph: (212) 585-0474
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