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Utagawa Kunisada, Taking Shelter from the Rain in a Sudden Shower

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865

Taking Shelter from the Rain in a Sudden Shower
(Yudachi ameyadori no zu)

signed Toyokuni ga within the artist's Toshidama cartouche, publisher's seal Tsujiyasu (Tsujiya Ysaubei of Kinkaido), carver's seal Hori Shoji (Tsuge Shojiro), censor's seal Aratame, date seal Tora-go (year of the Tiger [1854], 5th month)

oban tate-e triptych 14 3/8 by 28 3/4 in., 36.5 by 73.1 cm

This composition is an imaginary scene assembling a group of nine recognizable actors in identifiable roles from four unrelated plays and placing them together in a fanciful setting of taking shelter from a rainstorm. Though such prints were often used to promote specific plays for a theater, this collection of actors and roles is unusual as it commemorates four different plays, produced at two different theaters over the course of two years, 1853 and 1854.

In the left panel, the actor Bando Shuka I (1813-1855) is in the role of Yoshida Matsuwaka, the actor Iwai Kumesaburo III (Iwai Hanshiro, 1829-1882) is in the role of Maid Okaru, and the actor Ichikawa Kodanji IV (1812-1866) is in the role of the Thunder god Kaminari from the plays Yosete Mimasu Hana no Nishiki-e and Miyakodori Nagare no Shiranami (The Great Thief of the Miyakodori Brothel), both staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1854 at the Kawarazakiza Theater in Edo.

In the center panel, the actor Arashi Rikan III (1812-1863) is in the role of the sarumawashi (lit. Monkey Trainer) Owasa, the actor Nakamura Fukusuke I (1830-1899) is in the role of Geisha Komakichi, and the actor Bando Takesaburo I (Bando Hikosaburo V, 1832-1877) is in the role of Izutsuya Denbei from Hatsugasumi Onna Saruhiki, also staged in the 3rd lunar month of 1854 at the Kawarazakiza.

In the right panel, the actor Arashi Kichisaburo III (1810-1864) is in the role of Wakato Hatsuemon, the actor Onoe Baiko IV (Onoe Kikugoro IV, 1808-1860) is in the role of Yokogushi no Otomi, and the actor Ichikawa Danjuro VIII (1823-1854) is in the role of Izuya Yosabuto from the play Yowa Nasake Ukina No Yokogushi (A Haircomb Aslant in a Rumored Story of Love), staged on the 5th lunar month of 1853 at the Nakamura Theater in Edo.

References:
Laura J. Mueller, Competition and Collaboration: Japanese Prints of the Utagawa School, 2007, p. 153, cat. 137 (left sheet)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession nos. 11.44155a-c and 11.43864a-b
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession nos. 11.28045 and 11.28274 (1853 playbill)
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.28268 (1854 playbill)

$1,600