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Utagawa Kunisada, Actors at the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865

Actors at the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido: Fukuroi, Tadanobu
([Yakusha mitate] Tokaido gojusan tsugi no uchi: Fukuroi, Tadanobu)

signed Toyokuni ga, carver's seal hori Take, publishers seal Yoshi Sumimasa (Sumiyoshiya Masagoro of Horaido), censor seals Hama and Magome, and date seal Ni-go (year of the rat [1852], 5th month)

oban tate-e 14 5/8 by 10 1/4 in., 37 by 26 cm

The actor Arashi Rikan III (1812-1863) is in the role of Kitsune Tadanobu, a fox disguised as Yoshitsune's loyal retainer Sato Tadanobu from the play Yoshitsune senbon zakura (Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees). In the play, Yoshitsune's lover, Princess Shizuka, is en route to Yoshino where she is meant to reunite with her love. She plays a small drum which Yoshitsune gave her for safekeeping, the sound of which attracts Kitsune Tadanobu, who by all appearances is indistinguishable from the real Sato Tadanobu, were it not for his furtive hopping movements on display for the audience. The drum, which was actually given to Yoshitsune by the retired Emperor, was made with the hide of the fox's parents, and its music could, fleetingly, conjure their spirits. In this human form as Sato Tadanobu he carries a hat and a fuku (lit. bundle) of armor given to him by Yoshitsune (which decorates the series title on this print). Fuku is a homophone of Fukuroi, hence the location along the Tokaido of the composition.

References:
Andreas Markes, Kunisada's Tokaido: Riddles in Japanese Woodblock Prints, 2013, p. 139, cat. T63-28
Arendie and Hank Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2003, pp. 167-175

$550