Kunichika: Good Luck In and Bad Luck Out! Actors Preparing for the New Year, One with Tattoo

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Artist: Toyohara Kunichika 豊原国周 (1835-1900) 

Title:  Three Actors Prepare for the New Year, including Sawamura Tanosuke, Nakamura Shikan 澤村田之助・中村芝翫

Date: 1864

Sawamura Tanosuke III is roasting beans at right, tending to the small stove with cooking chopsticks. In the middle is an actor with a flower blossom tattoo, perhaps Kawarazaki Gonjuro, who holds a tray of beans. (Beans were traditionally tossed out to chase away the demons of the old year on New Year’s Eve.) We see a third actor at left, perhaps Nakamura Shikan,  preparing the shrine for the new year; he is polishing a tablet and above him we see a larger shrine for the new year, complete with round white mochi cakes and herbs decoration. Perhaps we are seeing popular actors of the time in a relaxed, offstage setting that is familiar and intimate, so that the public can exclaim “Actors--they’re just like us!” The title may be along the lines of “Demons Out and Good Fortune In!”

Tanosuke III was a leading onnagata, apparently so influential that s/he set new styles in women’s fashions. S/he tragically contacted gangrene and had a leg amputated in 1865, yet they continued to perform on stage for a number of years after this. 

Condition:  Excellent impression, color and condition.

Dimensions: Oban triptych, each sheet approx 36.5 x 24.5 cm

Signature:  Kunichika ga国周画