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Nakamura Utaemon III (三代目中村歌右衛門) as
Katō Masakiyo (加藤清正) in Hachijin Shugo no Honjō
[八陣守護城]

Identifier: 1820 Yoshikuni Utaemon III
Description:

Dean Schwaab wrote of this print:

"The role of Masakiyo and other aragoto roles became mainstays of the Ōsaka theater through the special talents of Utaemon III. The role of Masakiyo is patterned on the historical figure of the faithful retainer Kato Kiyomasa. This print depicts a scene in which Masakiyo, dressed in these distinctive formal robes, receives his enemies and knowingly consumes a poisoned ceremonial cup of sake as part of his plan to protect his young lord from the schemes of his enemies. By sheer will, the loyal retainer lives on for several months to accomplish his task... The years 1820 and 1821 were peak production ones for Yoshikuni, and the early signature with the elongated yoshi is a clear indicator of an early date. The production was very successful and was repeated in Kyōto for the year-end performances."

The bust portrait of Utaemon in this role designed by Hokushū - see Lyon Collection #342 - was for this same performance.

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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 by Hokushū.

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While the white circles are the most noticeable element on Masakiyo's outfit they almost distract attention away from the butterfly motif of his obi. But it is the white circles or ja-no-me (蛇の目) or 'snake eye' crests that are the most notable.

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Illustrated:

1) In black and white in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections: Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels, vol. 9, Kodansha, 1989, p. 205, #19.

2) In Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata Yakusha-e Shusei, (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints) volume 1, Ikeda Bunko Library, Osaka, 1997, no. 311.

3) In color in 原色浮世絵大百科事典 (Genshoku Ukiyoe Daihyakka Jiten), vol. 9, p. 122.

4) In color in Osaka Prints by Dean Schwaab, p. 73.

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