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Artist: Utagawa Toyokuni I (初代歌川豊国)

Print: Segawa Kikunojō III [瀬川菊之丞] as Chōkichi [長吉]

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Dates: 1796,created
Dimensions: 9.75 in,15.0 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Toyokuni ga (豊国画)
Publisher: Izumiya Ichibei (Marks 180 - seal 25-365)

Related links: Honolulu Museum; Minneapolis Institute of Arts;

Physical description:

Illustrated in color in Worldly Pleasures, Earthly Delights: Japanese Prints from the Minneapolis Institute of Art, p. 161, #126.

In the text to this entry Yōsuke Katō suggests that this print and its possible mate may have been part of a larger and famous series of actor prints from this same time published by Izumiya Ichibei and designed by Toyokuni I, but without the black and gray bifurcated background. He wrote about this print:

"These similarities have led ukiyo-e specialists to conjecture that this print and several others belong to the series even though they do not bear the series title.

The facial features of the actor pictured here closely resemble those of Segawa Kikunojō III as depicted by Toyokuni I in another print... [from that series.] In addition, the crest on the actor's sleeves confirms that he is a member of the Segawa lineage. This image may have advertised Kikunojō's role as the young shop clerk Chōkichi in the play Sumida no haru geisha katagi, staged at the Kiri Theater in the first month of 1796. Chōkichi is murdered on the banks of the Sumida River by Ume no Yoshibei (played by Suwamura Sōjūrō III), who does not realize that the shop clerk is his wife's younger brother. Here, Kikunojō as Chōkichi is shown with the unshaven forelocks of a youth not yet of age. In the 1796 production, Kikunojō also performed the role of Chōkichi's older sister Koume, the wife of Yoshibei.

A print by Toyokuni showing Sawamura Sōjūrō III in the role of Ume no Yoshibei has the same pale gray and black background seen here. It seems likely, therefore, that the two images were produced as a pair."

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This figure, decchi Chōkichi (でつち長吉), is from the kabuki play Suda no Haru Geisha Katagi (隅田春妓女容性). It premiered in the first month of 1796 at the Kiriza in Edo. Chōkichi is a shop apprentice or decchi (丁稚) who is murdered after stealing the purse of the play's main character Yoshibei. What Yoshibei does not know at the time is that he has just killed his wife's younger brother. Based on a true story which took place in Osaka in 1689.

There is a summary of this play at http://www.kabuki21.com/ume_no_yoshibei.php.

For a Toyokuni I print representing Yoshibei see Lyon Collection #892. For one by Kunihiro see #901.