Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Print: Onoe Kikugorō III (尾上菊五郎) as the ghost of Yasukata (Yasukata no bōrei - 安方ノ亡霊) from the series Comparisons for Thirty-six Selected Poems (Mitate sanjūrokkasen no uchi - 見立三十六歌撰之内)

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Dates: 1852,created
Dimensions: 10.0 in,14.25 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Iseya Kanekichi (Marks 145 seal 21-059)
Carver: Yokogawa hori Take
Censors' seals: Mera and Watanabe
Date seal: 10/1852

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; British Museum; Waseda University; National Diet Library; Ritsumeikan University ; National Gallery of Victoria; Hankyu Culture Foundation; Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art;

Physical description:

In a 1997 article in the the Impressions, pages 10-11, published by the Japan Society, Timothy Clark discussed the multiple meanings of the term mitate-e. One definition dealt with the "...portraits of actors [that] are linked thematically by some aspect of their role to the text of a classical waka poem: for example, Onoe Baikō IV as the ghost of Yasukata, matched with a poem by Nakatsukasa containing appropriately desolate autume imagery." This quote is accompanied by an illustration of this print in the Lyon Collection.


In the 10th century Taira Masakado led a revolt against the government, but he and his warriors were defeated and killed. "After the death of Masakado his retainers, one being the father of Utō Yasukata, were forced to commit suicide. Yasukata swore to avenge his father's death and that of Masakado, and he promised Masakado's children to restore their family's lost fortunes. His ghost is said to haunt the surroundings of Masakado's castle 'Sōma no Furugosho' at Sashima, usually, as in this print, during turbulent weather.

Blood runs from Yasukata's shoulders, while a small flame appears at left. The body seems to be somewhat translucent and intangible, created by an excellent use of colours, shading off into one another in the lower half of the print. In the background a storm carries leaves across the sky, while grasses and the dark shape of a tree bend to the right, against the axis of the ghost's head."

Quoted from: What About Kunisada? by Jan van Doesburg, p. 104. Note that van Doesburg identifies this actor as Onoe Baikō IV as does Clark in his 1997 article on mitate-e. Almost all other collections identify this actor as Kikugorō III who died in 1849. Even the British Museum, where Clark is a curator, list this print as being an image of Kikugorō III, despite what he had written. Their copy of this print had entered their collection in 1992. At the least, if the image is truly of Baikō IV then it could loosely be described as an image of Kikugorō IV.

At this point we tend toward an identification of this image with Baikō IV, until otherwise explained to us that it isn't.

From the series 'Mitate Sanjurokkaisen no uchi' noted for its high quality printing. Early 1st edition with extra color blocks and superb bokashi shading.


The poem in the upper right is by Nakatsukasa (中務: 912-991) and reads:

Akikaze no
fuku ni tsurete mo
towanu ka na
hagi no ha naraba
oto wa shite maji



Illustrated in:

1) a quarter-page, black and white reproduction in The Art of Japanese Prints by Richard Illing, 1980, p. 124.

2) color in Japanese Prints : Ukiyo-e in Edo, 1700-1900 by Ellis Tinios, Lund Humphries, 2010, p. 63. Tinios wrote: "The recently deceased actor Onoe Kikugorō III as the ghost of a samurai who sought to avenge his father's forced suicide. The artist links role and poem through a landscape of bending pines and wind-tossed reeds, which echoes the reference to the sound of the autumn wind among the reeds in the opening line of the poem (the only one quoted)." This is the same print as the one linked to above at the British Museum.