Toyohara Kunichika, Actor Ichikawa Sadanji I

Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900

Actor Ichikawa Sadanji I as Wada no Shimobe Busuke
(Ichikawa Sadanji, Wada no Shimobe Busuke)

signed Toyohara Kunichika hitsu, censor's seal Tori-roku (year of the cock [1873], 6th month)

oban tate-e 14 by 9 3/8 in., 35.5 by 23.8 cm

The actor Ichikawa Sadanji I (1842-1904) is in the role of Wada no Shimobe Busuke, a retainer of Wada Shimobe, from the play Igagoe dochu sugoroku (Revenge at Igagoe). The play depicts a vendetta carried out by Wada Shimobe and his brother-in-law following the death of his father at the hands of the villainous Matagoro. Busuke stayed loyal to his master throughout their journey, eventually succumbing to his wounds at the hand of Matagoro's retainers in their ultimate battle. However, outnumbered thirty-six to four, Busuke, Shimobe and their brethren valiantly fought and avenged the murder of Shimobe's father.

Sadanji was considered one of the preeminent stars of the Meiji period, and in tandem with Ichikawa Danjuro IX (1839-1903) and Onoe Kikugoro V (1844-1903) was referred too as Dan-Kiku-Sa. His formal crest matsukawabishi ni tsuta (an ivy leaf enclosed in an octagon) was said to have been given to him by Danjuro IX and is depicted in the decorative border of this composition.

A.B. Mitford, Tales of Old Japan, 1890, pp. 59-65
Amy Reigle Newland, Time present and time past, Images of a forgotten master: Toyohara Kunichika, 1835-1900, 1999, p. 103, cat. 75
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (, from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.16600



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