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Toyohara Kunichika, The Tale of Momoyama: Kato Kiyomasa

Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900

The Tale of Momoyama: Kato Kiyomasa
(Momoyama monogatari: Kato Kiyomasa)

signed Toyohara Kunichika hitsu with Toshidama artist's seal, carver's seal Nisei Hori Ei (Watanabe Tsunejiro) and publisher's seal of Fukuda Kumajiro with date, Meiji nijuhachinen, junigatsu (Meiji 28 [1895], December)

oban tate-e triptych 13 7/8 by 27 3/4 in., 35.1 by 70.4 cm

The actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX (1838-1903) is in the role of Kato Kiyomasa, a samurai falsely accused of a crime, from the play Momoyama Monogatari (The Tale of Momoyama). He was placed under house arrest while his master, the legendary Toyotomi Hideyoshi, considered the accusations before him. However, when an earthquake struck the region, Kiyomasa ignored the internment and hurried to the Momoyama palace to ensure his lord's safety. This composition depicts the loyal Kiyomasa springing to action as the building crumbles around him. With little regard for his own safety or potential reprocusions, he rushes to protect Hideyoshi. Kiyomasa is based on the historical daimyo of the same name, who lived from 1562 until 1611 and was alligned with Hideyoshi. The historical Kiyomasa was a reknowned general, and contributed to major victories at Seoul and Busan during the Korean Imjin Wars (1592-1598).

Compare with an earlier portrait by Kunichika of the same actor in the same role from 1873.

Reference:
Amy Reigle Newland, Time present and time past, Images of a forgotten master: Toyohara Kunichika 1835-1903, 1999, p. 143, cat. 121

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