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Shunsen
Natori Shunsen, 1886-1960
Creative Prints, Collected Portraits of Shunsen: Actor Nakamura Fukusuke IV as the Smuggler Soshichi
(Sosaku hanga Shunsen Nigao-e Shu: Nakamura Fukusuke, Soshichi)

mica background, signed Shunsen with artist's seal Shunsen and artist's approval seal Natori on lower right, publisher's seal Watanabe-ko (Watanabe Shozaburo), from an edition limited to 150 impressions, ca. 1927
dai oban tate-e 15 5/8 by 10 5/8 in., 39.8 by 27.1 cm
The actor Nakamura Fukusuke IV (Nakamura Baigyoku III, 1875-1948) is in the role of the smuggler Komachiya Soshichi from the play Koi Minato Hakata no Hitofushi (Song of Hakata, The Port of Love), staged at the Minami Theater in Kyoto in March of 1923. The play was based on a historical case of seven smugglers from 1717 who were punished harshly after importing goods from China and Dutch colonies.
Before he was a smuggler, Soshichi was a Kyoto merchant who booked passage aboard a ship under the pretext of a business trip to Hakata. However, his true intention was to see his lover, the courtesan Kojoro. During the passage, a smuggling ship captained by the infamous pirate Kezori Kuemon pulled up alongside the vessel. The well-intentioned Soshichi attempted to thwart the raid, but in a scuffle was thrown from the deck onto the pirates' ship. Upon landing in Hakata, Kojoro vouches for Soshichi to the pirates, which allows him to join Kezori's crew and the lovers are finally able to marry. The newlyweds amassed a fortune, however their misdeeds would eventually catch up to them. In the play's final act, Soshichi kills himself to save Kojoro from the police. His fate, however, was arguably better than that of the other smugglers. The pirates were branded and tattooed, separated from their noses and ears, and exiled in perpetuity, a brutal but historically accurate punishment for engaging in illegal trade.
References:
Yamaguchi Keizoro, Shunsen Natori Exhibition Catalogue, Kushigata, 1991, no. 35
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 32, cat. no. 26
Arendie and Henk Herwig, Heroes of the Kabuki Stage, 2004, pp. 114-119 (re: play)
Lucie Folan et. al., Stars of the Tokyo Stage: Natori Shunsen's Kabuki Actor Prints, National Gallery of Australia, 2012, p. 105
Carolyn M. Putney, et. al., Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints, Toledo Museum of Art, 2013, p. 196, cat. no. 159
Samuel L. Leiter, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theater, 2014, p. 660 (re: play)
Honolulu Museum of Art (honolulumuseum.org), object no. 26562

his lover, Kojoro, by Utagawa Kunisada, 1852 view print
price: $ 2,000