Natori Shunsen, Nakamura Jakuemon as Oshichi

Natori Shunsen, 1886-1960

Collection of Shunsen Portraits: Nakamura Jakuemon as Oshichi
(Shunsen Nigao-e Shu: Nakamura Jakuemon)

a full-length portrait of the dancing onnagata with shadowy kurogo ('the black robed') stagehands in background; signed Shunsen with artist's seal Shunsen, with publisher's seal Watanabe ko (Watanabe Shozaburo), and oval artist's approval seal, Natori, at left, 1927

dai oban tate-e 15 7/8 by 10 7/8 in., 40.4 by 27.5 cm

The role of Oshichi is based on the true story of Yaoya Oshichi, the 16 year old daughter of a vegetable-seller who in 1681 fell in love with a young priest who she met when she went to his temple to escape a large fire in Edo. In a misguided attempt to see the priest again, Oshichi set fire to her own house, which spread and destroyed a large area of the city. She was arrested and convicted of arson; her punishment was death by fire. Her story became the basis for several kabuki plays.

References:
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Natori Shunsen (exhibition catalogue), Kushigata, 1991, no. 42
Mueller, Laura J., Strong Women, Beautiful Men: Japanese Portrait Prints from the Toledo Museum of Art, 2006, p. 76, pl. 48

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