Kunichika: Ichikawa Danjuro Meditating Before a Painting of Fudo Myo–o

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Artist: Toyohara Kunichika
Title: Ichikawa Danjuro Meditating Before a Painting of Fudo Myo–o
Date: 1889

The kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro IX (1839-1903) meditating before an image of Fudo Myo-o, perhaps gaining inspiration for his stage role as Mongaku. Danjuro IX was born in Edo around 1840 as the fifth son of Ichikawa Danjuro VII, and eventually became one of the most famous actors in Japan, one of three stars who dominated the Kabuki world during the Meiji era.  Here we see Danjuro seated in repose, fan in hand and wearing a black jacket that bears his famous crest. To the right is a table screen with a scene of a waterfall, placed behind a painting of the Buddhist guardian deity Fudo Myo-o, with a peony flower in a vase placed as an offering. The peony flower is closely associated with the Ikchikawa Danjuro family. The scene of the waterfall would immediately bring to mind Danjuro’s role as Mongaku in the play “The Austerities of Mongaku”, where in the 1880s he played both the penitent priest Mongaku (who famously spends weeks beneath Nachi waterfall as penance) and the deity Fudo Myo-o, who eventually rescues him. We see brushes, an inkstone, a feather, and other brush-painting supplies laid out on a vermilion table top. The painting is signed, but unread. Perhaps the artist is a friend of Danjuro and has just departed the scene. There are several lines of poetry in the center and left sheet; some or all of it may have been composed by Danjuro. The Danjuro family was known to venerate the deity Fudo, so this work has many associations underlying the peaceful tableau. 

Condition: Excellent impression and color. Very good condition. The narrow, brown inner border on the screen contains an acidic metallic pigment that was used during print production to produce a metallic effect. In these areas the paper needs reinforcement. Untrimmed and unbacked.

Dimensions: ôban triptych (38 x 76cm)
Signature: Oju (by request) Toyohara Kunichika hitsu