New Versions of Figures on the Stage: Actor Nakamura Kichiemon I as Suzagamori no Chobei
(Shinpan butai no sugata-e: Nakamura Kichiemon, Suzagamori no Chobei)
with mica background; signed Shunsen with artist's seal Shunsen, published by Watanabe Shozaburo, ca. 1951
dai oban tate-e 16 by 10 5/8 in., 40.5 by 27 cm
The actor Nakamura Kichiemon I (1886-1954) is in the role of Banzuin Chobei from the Execution Ground at Suzugamori scene of the play Ukiyozuka Hiyoku no Inazuma (The Floating World's Patter and Matching Lightening Bolts). Chobei is a chivalrous commoner, or okotodate, who meets the samurai Shirai Gonpachi. Though Gonpachi had been accused of murder, Chobei saw goodness in him and agreed to help the samurai prove the accusations to be fraudulent. Okotodate were morally upstanding characters of low social rank who resist corrupt yet higher status samurai. Chobei was one of the most famous okotodate. His character recurred throughout kabuki theater in adaptations of this story and, eventually, entirely new stories dedicated to his deeds and adventures.
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Shunsen Natori Exhibition Catalogue, Kushigata, 1991, no. 59
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 47, cat. no. 55
James R. Brandon and Samuel L. Leiter, Kabuki Plays on Stage: Darkness and Desire, 1804-1864, 2002, pp. 102-104 (re: play)
Brooklyn Museum (brooklynmuseum.org), accession no. 68.35.15
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