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Artist: Shunkōsai Hokushū (春好斎北洲)

Print: Ichikawa Ebijūrō I as Tōken Jūbei (市川鰕十郎の唐犬重兵衛) from the play
Benimurasaki Aide Someage (Red and Purple, Rich Dyes of Osaka)
[紅紫大坂潤]

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Dates: 1822,created
Dimensions: Overall dimensions
Inscription:

Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
春好斎北洲画
Artist's seal: Hokushū

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Honolulu Museum of Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art - blue ground; Hankyu Culture Foundation - blue ground; Cleveland Museum of Art;

Physical description:

The actor Ichikawa Ebijūrō I (1777-1827) played the role of Tōken [China Dog] Jūbei in the kabuki drama Benimurasaki aide someage [Red and Purple, Rich Dyes of Osaka] only once, in Osaka at the Kado Theater in the 8th month of 1816. However, this print was actually published around the spring of 1822 as part of a series of bust-length portraits ( ōkubi-e, “large head”) on bright yellow backgrounds. There are at least five versions of this eye-catching design with various combinations of inscribed artisan names and publisher marks, the last printed with a blue ground. This impression appears to represent the third state, lacking the original actor’s name and role, as well as the carver’s seal that were at the upper right.

The poem by Hōrai Sanjin seen above reads:

Even Saohime, Goddess of Spring
cannot help but be won over
by the "prawn," Ebijūrō,
the pièce-de-résistance
of the New Year's offering
in this fine spring season.

Saohime mo
nabiki ya suran
hōrai no
ebi wa rippa na
haru no hanagata

****

Hokushū was known as a great portraitist who had been the pupil of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), artist of the world-renowned woodcut, The Great Wave. In turn, he took on many students of his own such as Hokuei, Shunkei, and Shunshi, all included in this exhibition.

Trans. John T. Carpenter, Designed for Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings, 1680-1860. (New York: Asia Society and Japanese Art Society, 2008), 211.