Utagawa Kuniyoshi


Actor Matsumoto Koshiro V as Banzui Chobei

signed Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga with artist's Kiri seal, censors' seals Mera and Murata, and publisher's seal Bun of Tsujiokaya Bunsuke of Kinshodo, ca. 1847-1852

oban tate-e 14 1/8 by 9 3/4 in., 35.8 by 24.9 cm

The actor Matsumoto Koshiro V (1764-1838) is posthumously depicted in the role of Banzui Chobei, an otokodate (a chivalrous commoner) from what is likely to have been a series of five compositions of actors in otokodate roles. The theme of the otokodate in kabuki originated with the play Five Chivalrous Commoners (Shiranami gonin otoko), after which the tales and trials of righteous chonin (townspeople) became adapted to many other plays.

Koshiro is identifiable both by his remarkable nose, for which he earned the nickname 'Big Nose' Koshiro, and his four leaf mon, which is featured prominently on his robe. The actor was well-remembered for performing the role of Banzui Chobei, and sports Chobei's brown and white checkered kimono. In 1852, Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865) similarly portrayed the late Koshiro V in the role of Banzuiin Chobei and paired him with the also-deceased actor Iwai Tojaku (1776-1847) in the role of Shirai Gonpachi, Chobei's samurai companion. An 1833 diptych by Kuniyoshi depicts the actors Tojaku and Koshiro in their respective roles from the play Mitsuicho gozonji no edozome, performed at the Nakamura Theater in the 5th lunar month of 1833. Based on Kunisada's contemporaneous depiction of the pair of actors, as well as the striking similarity of the Chobei costume in Kuniyoshi's two depictions of Koshiro, one can entertain the notion that Kuniyoshi had that 1833 staging in mind when producing the posthumous portrait of Matsumoto 'Big Nose' Koshiro between 1847 and the early 1850s.

Andreas Marks, Kunisada's Tokaido: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2013, p. 116, no. T63-02 (re: Kunisada's 1852 portrait)
British Museum, museum no. 1902,0606,0.136

price: Sold

Utagawa Kuniyoshi


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