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.
Nobutaka Imamura, ed., Ukiyo-e (Kunichika), Kyoto University of Art & Design, March 2018, p. 13, no. 66
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)
(inv. no. C-1262)
price: $ 1,400
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