Artist: Natori Shunsen (名取春仙)

Print: Ichikawa Sumizō VI (市川寿美蔵) as Shirai Gonpachi (白井権八) from the series Portriats of Male Actors in Various Roles (創作版画 春仙似顔集)

Bookmark and Share
Dates: 1926,created
Dimensions: 10.75 in,15.75 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Shunsen (春仙)
Seal: Shunsen

Related links: National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Honolulu Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; National Gallery of Australia; National Gallery of Victoria; Centre Céramique de Maastricht; Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art;

Physical description:

Shirai Gonpachi is a character from the play The Floating World's Pattern and Matching Lighting Bolts (Ukiyozuka hiyoku no inazuma - 浮世柄比翼稲妻). This is based on an early 19th century novel.

In this part of the play "The action begins at night at Suzugamori [鈴ヶ森], and eerie location where executions take place on the main highway to Tokyo. Thieves are discussing potential targets when a messenger arrives on the scene. They rob the man and read out the bounty notice he is carrying, it offers a reward for the young samurai Shirai Gonpachi, wanted for the murder of his uncle Honjō Suketayū. While they are talking, Gonpachi steps out of his palanquin, expecting to be at Tokyo's busy Kannon Temple. He immediately realises that his palanquin bearers have cheated him. The thieves attack, Gonpachi triumphs by blinding some of his attackers and impaling, beheading or dismembering others. Innovative stage tricks produce a particularly gory and famous acrobatic struggle. (A man's face appears to have been sliced off for instance, when a special hinged mask drops to reveal a featureless red mask beneath.)"


About this print:

"Shunsen's portrait of the handsome young actor Ichikawa Sumizō VI as Gonpachi emphasises the character's noble birth, signified by his white face makeup, and his youth, manifest by the actor's forelock wig (maegami katsura). In samurai culture, a boy's forelock is not cut off until he reaches manhood."

Quoted from: Stars of the Tokyo Stage by Lucie Folan, et al., p. 126. There is a full-color reproduction on page 127.


This print is from an edition of 150.


Illustrated in color in 名取春仙, 1991, p. 36.


There are other copies of this print in the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and the Toledo Museum of Art.