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Scholten Japanese Art Gallery
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Kunichika
Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900
The Mirror of Backstage in Full Bloom: Nakamura Shikan IV
(Hanazakari gakuya no sugatami: Nakamura Shikan)

signed Kunichika ga with artist's Toshidama seal, publisher's seal Bun, Tsujibun han, Yokoyamacho Sanchome (Tsujiokaya Bunsuke of Kinshodo), carver's seal Asakura Hori Man, censor's seal Ushi-roku, aratame (year of the Ox [1865], 6th month, examined)
oban tate-e 14 1/4 by 9 5/8 in., 36.3 by 24.3 cm
The multi-talented Nakamura Shikan IV (1831-99) is seen in the reflection of an oblong mirror framed by red and gold lacquer draped with handling cloths. He wears a lightweight indigo and white cotton yukata and leans forward with a small sake cup in his hand with a large red uchiwa fan poking into view. The mirror rests propped up on an angle, in the foreground we see small containers of make-up, and an elaborate wig adorned with combs and hairpins in a coiffure suitable for the role of a high-ranking courtesan. Shikan IV was one of the rare kabuki actors that could play romantic leads, bombastic heroes, and elegant female roles, all with equal aplomb. In his day his skill was only matched to that of the similarly talented Bando Hikosaburo V (1832-77), with whom the two actors shared a simmering rivalry.
References:
Amy Reigle Newland, Time Present and Time Past: Images of a Forgotten Master: Toyohara Kunichika, 1999, p. 79, cat. no. 45 (for another print in this series)
Tokyo Metropolitan Library, acquisition no. 577-C013-02
Waseda University Theatre Museum, acquisition no. 007-264
price: $ 900