Shin Nigao, no. 4: Sadayakko as Queen Artemis
(Shin Nigao: Sadayakko no Arutesu Oujyo)
woodblock print with artist's seal in upper right corner, carved and printed by Igami Bonkotsu (1875-1933), published by Nigaodo, October 1915
koban 7 by 4 1/2 in., 17.8 by 11.5 cm
original cardstock 8 7/8 by 6 1/4 in., 22.7 by 15.8 cm
In 1915 a group of ten artists, including future shin-hanga luminaries Natori Shunsen (1886-1960), Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958), Yamamura Toyonari (Koka, 1885-1945) and Torii Kotondo (1900-1976), designed woodblock printed kabuki actor portraits for a magazine promoting the kabuki theater, Shin Nigao (New Portraits). Only five issues of the magazine were published beginning in June, with subsequent issues released in July, August, October and November, the first four included fourteen small format portraits of kabuki actors, and the last, celebrating the coronation of Emperor Taisho with portraits of officials and geisha who participated in the ceremonies, included twenty-one. Of the seventy-seven prints produced, Shunsen contributed thirty, the most out of all of the artists. The prints were all carved by the master artisan Igami Bonkotsu (1877-1933) who was also the printer for issues 2 through 5; and Nakamura Sanjiro handled the printing in the first issue. Although the magazine was short-lived, it gave the artist a stimulating opportunity to interpret the classic ukiyo-e subject of actor portraits; some designs would make a later appearance in a larger format as fully realized shin-hanga prints.
This is a portrait of the ground-breaking Japanese actress Kawakami Sadayakko (Sada Koyama, 1871-1946), a former geisha who toured the world with a troupe of actors, electrifying audiences with her her unique performances of dramatic dance. Her role is identified as Queen Artemis in a play titled Ikusagami (or Gunshin, either reading can be translated as God of War or War Hero). The character is likely based on Artemisia, the warrior-queen of the Greek city-state of Halicarnassus.
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Natori Shunsen, Kushigata, 1991, no. 177
The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints, Shin Nigao Magazine, (www.myjapanesehanga.com)
Darrel C. Karl, Eastern Impressions, Sadayakko Through Artists' Eyes- Part 3: The Third Paris Trip and Later Years in Japan, Sept. 27, 2015 (easternimp.blogspot.com)
Darrel C. Karl, Modern Japanese Performing Art Prints: Natori Shunsen (www.mjpap.com/shunsen1915.html)
Waseda University Theatre Museum, no. 201-0457
(inv. no. 10-5393)
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site last updated
October 21, 2021
Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
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