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Artist: Shunkōsai Hokushū (春好斎北洲)

Print: Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Katō Masakiyo (加藤正清)

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Dates: 1820,created
Dimensions: Overall dimensions
Inscription:

Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
春好斎北洲画

Related links: Freer and Sackler Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Library of Congress; British Museum; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Kabuki21 - summary of the play Hachijin Shugo no Honjō; Hankyu Culture Foundation;

Physical description:

There are three prints in the Lyon Collection showing Utaemon III as Katō Masakiyo. Each shows him in the same dramatic costume and is said to date from ca. 1820. The other two are another one by Hokushū and one by Yoshikuni.

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Nakamura Utaemon III (1778-1838) was the most versatile and popular actor in Osaka stage history, with half the color woodcut print production dedicated to images of him in many years. This portrait of the actor depicts a tense moment in the play Hachijin shugo no honjō (8 Battle-ranks in Defense of Osaka Castle [八陣守護城]) in which he, as Masakiyo, loosely based on the warlord Katō Kiyomasa (1562-1611), has just knowingly swallowed poisoned saké in order to protect his lord’s heir and Osaka Castle. The poem, by Chōsokusai Fuminari, above the actor’s head references the real, historical figure:

Kiyomasa is the moon
shining on the world
at midday:
an art of piercing insight.

Trans.Roger Keyes, The Theatrical World of Osaka Prints. (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1973), 68.

From Ukiyo-e Prints in the Mike Lyon Collection by Cori Sherman North

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This print commemorates a performance from the the play Hachijin Shugo no Honjō at the Kato Theater 1820/9.

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"A symbol of courage and loyalty in the face of lethal treachery, the hero in the play knowingly drinks poisoned sake at a banquet and suffers great pain as he wills himself to live so that he can continue to protect the son of his late master, who represents the historical hegemon Toyotomi Hideyoshi, from the ruthlessly ambitious character representing Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Here Utaemon III wears the formal robe emblazoned with large disks that is customary for the character Masakiyo in the banquet scene..." Quoted from: Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints in the Anne van Biema Collection, p. 144.

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"Some impressions have a zigzag pattern on the white ribbon of the head-gear, instead of the pattern of semi-hexagons shown in the print illustrated here. The impressions with the pattern of semi-hexagons are probably the earlier ones, since a print by the artist Yoshikuni depicts Utaemon full-length in the same role in the performance 9/1820, also wearing this head-gear with the white ribbon and semi-hexagons.

The seals of the poet and the artist are not present on later impressions, while the publisher's trademark 'Den' (Izutsuya Dembei) is added.

There is also registered an impression without the mentioning of the actor's name and role." Quoted from: Ōsaka Kagami 大阪鏡 by Jan van Doesburg, p. 35.

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This image is illustrated in color in Osaka Prints by Dean Schwaab, p. 73.

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The text reads: 世かひ中かゞやく月の清正は蛇の目をあくてあらひたる芸 右 鳥足斎文成