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Kitano Tsunetomi, Matsumoto Koshiro V as Sukeroku

Kitano Tsunetomi (1880-1947)

Matsumoto Koshiro V as Sukeroku

album leaf, ink and colors on silk; signed Tsunetomi hitsu with artist's seal Yau-an, ca. early 1930's

Matsumoto Koshiro V (1764-1838) was one of the most famous kabuki actors of the Edo Period. Part of his fame he owed to his pronounced nose, which ukiyo-e artists used as his trademark in their depictions of the actor throughout his long career.

The actor is in the role of Hanakawa Sukeroku, an otokodate (chivalrous commoner) from the play Sukeroku yukari no Edo zakura (Sukeroku, the flower of Edo). Although set in the Yoshiwara, 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 role 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 flower (probably 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.

10 3/4 by 9 1/2 in.
27.2 by 24.2 cm