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Utagawa Kunisada, Actor Kawarazaki Gonjuro I as Hanakawado no Sukeroku

Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III), 1786-1865

Actor Kawarazaki Gonjuro I as Hanakawado no Sukeroku

signed Ki-o (77 years old) Toyokuni ga, with publisher's seal Terifuricho, Ebisuya (Ebisuya Shoshichi of Kinshodo), combined date and censor seal, Inu-ni, aratame (year of the dog [1862], 2nd month, examined)

oban tate-e diptych 14 1/8 by 19 1/2 in., 36 by 49.5 cm

The actor Kawarazaki Gonjuro I (Ichikawa Danjuro IX, 1838-1903) is in the iconic role of Hanakawado no Sukeroku, an otokodate (chivalrous commoner) from the play Sukeroku yukari no Edo zakura (Sukeroku, the Flower of Edo) performed at the Ichimura Theater in Edo in the 3rd month of 1862. This bold composition was designed and published the previous month to promote the forthcoming production.

Although set in the Yoshiwara pleasure quarters, the trials of Sukeroku are modeled after the story of one of the Soga brothers (Soga no Goro) a popular theme revisited in numerous kabuki interpretations. The Sukeroku costume is identified by the combination of the lavender or purple towel tied around his head, which symbolizes his love-sickness for the beautiful courtesan Agemaki, and the umbrella, an essential prop utilized during a particular entrance in a tradition established at a performance in 1850. The peony crest on the dark kimono is also typical for the role. Sukeroku is one of the Kabuki Juhachiban ('Eighteen Kabuki Plays') compiled by Ichikawa Danjuro VII in 1840 as favorites for the family repertoire.

References:
Edo Tokyo Museum (digitalmuseum.rekibun.or.jp), accession nos. 90209691 & 90209692
Waseda University Theatre Museum (enpaku.waseda.ac.jp), accession no. 100-2597 (left sheet only)

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