Kunisada: The Villain Orochimaru and Magical Snakes

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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)
Title:  Kataoka Nizaemon VIII in the role of Yōzoku Orochimaru (妖賊大蛇丸)

Series: Competition of the art of magic done by Toyokuni 豊国揮毫奇術競 (Toyokuni kigô kijutsu arasoi)
Date: 1862

Kataoka Nizaemon VIII in the role of Yōzoku Orochimaru (妖賊大蛇丸), evil Master of Snake Magic. Orochimaru was the villain in the play "Jiraiya Gokegsu Monogatari", the Heroic Tales of Jiraiya. Orochimaru was possessed by an evil spirit of the Giant Snake, and in the play this villain must pit himself against  the valiant Jiraiya, who possesses Frog Magic, and Tsunate, who possesses slug magic. In this portrait of Nizaemon VIII as the villain, he wears the fluffy top wig of the character and the robe that bears a pattern that imitates snakeskin. From a decorative arrangement behind the actor hang slender cords, whose ends have become a nest of living snakes. The snakes seem intent on something treacherous, and all slither to the right, Orochimaru seeming to glide atop their magical forms, his feet not touching the ground. We see a robe hanging on a stand, so we can guess that Orochimaru has perhaps snuck into the sleeping quarters of an enemy and is planning something dastardly. Beautifully printed on deluxe paper, with mica on the snake “scales” pattern on the robe and in the background. There is also an extra pattern that is colorless yet shiny that has been applied to the purple in the hanging robe, perhaps imitating brocade.

Dimensions: ôban (36.5 x 24.5 cm)
Publisher: Hirano-ya
Signature: nanajû hachi sai Toyokuni hitsu (brush of Toyokuni at 78 years old)