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Utagawa Kunisada III, Japanese, (1848–1920)
Nakamura Shikan. Segawa Michinojo, Iwai Shijaku, Nakamura Shikan, c. 1870
Ink on Paper
14 1/16 in. x 28 in. (35.72 cm x 71.12 cm)

Object Type: Print
Technique: Wood-block Printing
Period: Edo, Late (1789-1868) or Meiji (1869-1912)
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Marer
Accession Number: 93.3.178

Alternate Title: Four Actors
Full Title: Nakamura Shikan as Matsuyama dayu, Segawa Michinojo as Shinzo Matsumoto, Iwai Shijaku as Nakai Owaka, and Nakamura Shikan as Wankyu (Wanya Kyubei)

Triptych; 3 panels not cojoined. Label on verso of mat with title and artist name (Kunisada II).

On verso of print, in pencil: 429 A-C. On mat in pencil: Kunimasa, "Man and 3 women" Marer 255. Eleven seals across the top of the panels. Signed: Baido Kuniamasa hitsu. Artist's seal: Toshidama. Censor's seal unread.

Colored ink on paper; woodblock print.

Object Description
Edo period color woodblock print with an image of 4 actors from the play "Mabarosi Wankyu." This popular play is based on the true story of the son of a wealthy merchant family (Wankyu), who fell madly in love with a courtesan (Matsuyama). He extravagantly spoiled her until he was placed under guard so as not to spend the family fortune. Although he eventually escapes, he loses his mind. In this version of the play, the same actor plays both the courtesan and her lover, depicted on either end of the print.

The print is colorful and dynamic, much like the kabuki tradition in Edo, and the facial expressions and interacting gazes of the characters create tension and drama within the scene. It is telling that the actor has a menacing expression, while the women are shown responding to him, passively reacting rather than actively setting an emotional tone for the scene.

The artist has chosen to print a border around the scene, which is a rather unusual framing device, and the decorations within the borders are the mon (crests) that help viewers to identify the three actors.

"This triptych depicts actors from the play Wankyu Sue no Matsuyama. The famous actor Nakamura Shikan IV (1831-1899) plays both the role of Wankyu, the son of a wealthy merchant depicted on the left, and that of his lover Matsuyama Taishi depicted on the right. While Wankyu wants to get back together with the courtesan, his family (depicted in the center) gets in his way due to their disapproval of his excessive spending in their relationship. During the Edo Period (1615-1868) members of Japanese society were expected to adhere to rigid social expectations, especially that of filial piety."
(JT, student in 2010 seminar ARHI154 Japanese Prints)

Horino-ya Tasuke.

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