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The Aoki Endowment for Japanese Art

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Torii Kiyotada VII, VII, Japanese, (active 1875–1941)
, 1895-1896
Ink on Paper
36.5 cm x 24.4 cm (14 3/8 in. x 9 5/8 in.)


Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Meiji (Japan, 1869-1912)
Credit Line: Purchased with funds from the Aoki Endowment for Japanese Arts and Cultures
Accession Number: 2001.2.37


Alternate Title: Kabuki Juhachiban: Fudo

Commentary
“Eighteen Kabuki Plays : Immoveable / Kabuki juhachiban : Fudo”
by Torii Kiyosada (1844-1901) & Kiyotada VII (active 1875-1941) 1896

“Immoveable Bright King / Fudo myoo” is a protector of the Buddhist faith, and is shown holding a sword to vanquish non-believers and crowned by a lotus flower representing spiritual enlightenment. The Ichikawa family of kabuki actors worshipped Fudo and performed special plays to honor their patron deity.



The kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX (1838-1903) frequently portrayed on stage the Buddhist deity Fudō Myō-ō/ the Great Immovable One. The Ichikawa family worshipped Fudō as their own patron deity. In Esoteric Buddhism Fudō is believed to be a manifestation of the Cosmic Buddha and a guardian of Buddhist teachings. His wrathful appearance is intended to convert non-believers; his sword is used to cut through ignorance and his rope is used to bind negative forces. A halo of flames destroys evil, and the lotus flower on his head symbolizes the possibility of spiritual salvation.
- Dr. Bruce A. Coats, 2022

Edition
Very fine impression with lacquer, and extensive blind printing.

Marks
Signed: "Tadakiyo" Seal: Red artist's seal.

Medium
Colored ink woodblock on off-white paper. Oban tate-e.

Object Description
Meiji period color woodblock print with two scenes of the actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX (1838-1903) in character, from "Fudo."

In Fudo, the evil within crazed monk Narukami is resolved by forcing him to take the form of this deity after expelling his hatred. Fudo, a guardian figure who protects the Buddhist faith, never yields to obstacles and is therefore known as Fudo myoo “The Immovable Bright King.” The first Ichikawa Danjuro chose to worship Fudo as a patron deity who would protect him and his family.

The print shows Fudo surrounded by flames, as he is known to enter a fire-emitting meditation, and the inclusion of rope, elaborate jewelry, and a sword pays homage to popular descriptions of the deity. Curiously, Fudo is intended to be a menacing figure, while the two artists portrayed him as a much less threatening figure complete with comedic facial expressions.

"Danjuro IX plays the role of Fudo, a protective Buddhist deity that his ancestor Danjuro I took as a spiritual guardian. This print features phenomenal “blind (inkless) printing that gives a complex pattern to the white background."
(KH, student in 2010 seminar ARHI154 Japanese Prints)

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