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Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865
Actor Nakamura Shikan II in The Nine Transformations
(Nakamura Shikan II, Kyu henge no uchi, Kyo kokonoe yayoi no hanamichi)
fan print; signed Gototei Kunisada ga, with publisher's seal San (Ibaya Senzaburo of Dansendo), date seal Mi-aratame (year of the snake , examined), ca. 1833, 3rd month
9 1/2 by 10 5/8 in., 24 by 27 cm
This extremely rare fan print shows the actor Nakamura Shikan II (Nakamura Utaemon IV, 1796-1852) in three different roles, each from a dance-piece staged consecutively in a non-stop performance given by one actor. Such a performance was called henge, transformation, and consisted of 3, 4, 5, 7, or 9 parts. This print relates to the nine-role play Kyo kokonoe yayoi no hanamichi which was staged at the Nakamura Theater during the 3rd month of 1833. Shikan II is shown in three of the nine roles (from right to left): as the poetess Ono no Komachi, a courtesan (keisei), and the red-skinned God Yudachikaminari (lit. Evening Shower Thunder) who appears in a round vignette decorated with thunder clouds. All nine dances pick up typical folk motifs that appear in Otsu-e, prints or paintings that were sold as popular souvenirs in the town of Otsu on Lake Biwa.
Fan prints rarely survived as they were pasted on wooden strips and actually used. This is the only known impression of this print.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.36747, 1833 tsuji banzuke (kabuki playbill)