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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Toyohara Kunichika, Actor Ichikawa Udanji as Sugawara Michizane

Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900

The Actor Ichikawa Udanji as Sugawara Michizane in the Scene Invocation of Sugawara Michizane on Mount Tenpai
(Sugawara Michizane-kyo Tenpaizan inori no zu)

signed Oju (by special request) Toyohara Kunichika hitsu with address and family name Arakawa Yasohachi as designer, with artist's seal Toyohara Kunichika, published by Ueki Ronnosuke, 1883, 4th month

oban tate-e triptych 28 3/8 by 14 3/8 in., 72.2 by 36.4 cm

The actor Ichikawa Udanji (Ichikawa Sainyu, 1843-1916) is in the role of Sugawara Michizane in the Mount Tenpai (Tenpaizan) scene from the play Sugawara denju tenarai kagami (The Teachings of the Secrets of Sugawara's Calligraphy). The renowned scholar Sugawara has been the victim of a false accusation, which claimed that he was attempting to seize power. This scene marks his climactic confrontation with those who plotted against him, namely Washizuka Heima. Standing atop Mount Tenpai, Sugawara transforms into a thunder god and strikes Heima with the branch of a plum tree, before flying away. The border of the print is decorated with a pattern of stylized plum blossoms alluding to the actor's umemon crest.

Amy Reigle Newland, Time Present and Time Past, Images of a Forgotten Master: Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900