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Toyohara Kunichika, Four Famous Wise Men of the Theater

Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900

Four Famous Wise Men of the Theater: Fujiwara Shihei
(Meiyu shikunshi: Fujiwara Shihei)

signed Kunichika hitsu with artist's seal Toshidama, carver's seal Nisei Watanabe Hori Ei (Watanabe Tsunejiro), publisher's seal of Fukuda Kumajiro, dated Meiji nijuyonen - gatsu - ka (Meiji 27 [1894] - month - day)

oban tate-e 14 1/4 by 9 5/8 in., 36.1 by 24.3 cm

The actor Ichikawa Kuzo III (Ichikawa Danzo VIII, 1836-1911) is in the role of Fujiwara Shihei from the play Sugawara denju tenarai kagami (The teaching of the secrets of Sugawara's calligraphy). Fujiwara Shihei is the villain in the story, set in 9th century Heian court, who attempts to discredit the renowned calligrapher, statesman, and eventual god of thunder Kan Shojo (based on the historical Sugawara Michizane, 845-903). Though Sugawara is exiled from the Imperial court, it is Shihei who receives his comeuppance at the end when he is killed by the ghosts of his victims as a revenge for his wicked schemes.

Amy Reigle Newland, Time present and time past, Images of a forgotten master: Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900, 1999, p. 133, cat. 111