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Plays and Theatre

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Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Japanese, (1797–1861)
The Marionette Sanbaso, 1853
Ink on Paper
14 3/16 in. x 9 7/8 in. (360.36 mm x 250.83 mm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Edo (Japan, 1615-1868)
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Frederick S. Bailey
Accession Number: 54.1.136

Alternate Title: Ayatsuri Sanbaso / Woman and Dream Woman / Puppet Dance

Label on verso, lower right: Bai IV 81a. Text in upper right, in pencil: Kuniyoshi, 'Puppet Dance.' On mat in pencil: Bai IV 81a, "Actor Purifying the Stage." Signed: Ichiyusai Kuniyoshi ga. Seal: Yoshi-kiri. Censor's seal: double censor's seal (Fukushima and Muramatsu) and date seal (Ushi-ni).

Colored ink on paper; woodblock print.

Object Description
Edo period color woodblock print with an image of a marionette. Kuniyoshi turns from the kabuki stage to the puppet theater, which was becoming very popular at this time, by showing an actor in the role of a marionette. The costume suggests that the actor has been purifying the stage. The portrait of the unidentified actor follows in the kubi-e (big head) style that was begun in the late 18th century.

"An actor is dressed as a marionette as part of the ritual cleansing of the kabuki stage at the New Year. The portrait is in the popular kubi-e (“big head picture”) style, but the actor is not identified, due to government bans on actor prints. This print is very different from Kuniyoshi’s usual warrior prints, but it has an intense formal dynamism characteristic of those works."
(KH, student in 2010 seminar ARHI154 Japanese Prints)

Yoshi-kiri seal.

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