Kunisada: Actor with Robe featuring Gods of Thunder and Wind (Sold)
Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)
Title: Actor with Robe of Gods of Thunder and Lightning and Yokai
Series: Eiyu mitate junin otoko (Prosperous Actors of Kabuki as Ten Dandy Men)
Date: Ca. 1848
Actor with Gods of Thunder and Lightning Robe. His kimono features a dramatic power play in the sky between the red thunder god (above), riding on the clouds and beating his thunder drums and the blue god of wind (at the bottom), who blows the falling autumn leaves and stirs up a strange creature. The title is framed with clouds and thunderbolts. The squirrel-like monster with single blades for claws at bottom is quite terrifying, although this exact type of yokai is unknown to this dealer. The actor has tied his towel around his neck in a jaunty fashion.
Regarding this series of ten actor portraits, the first word, eiyu, is a play on words, as it is normally written as 英雄, meaning “ hero“ (of a war). However here eiyu is written as 栄優, referring to “the most popular actors. The second word, mitate, means “comparison” and junin otoko means “ten men”. In Kabuki “Date-otoko” means “ninkyo,“ men of chivarlous spirit, namely those with the edokko (Edoite) temperament. They are very popular figures of Kabuki dramas.
The actors in this set wear similar styles of kimono and the attributes of dandy men of Edo. These include a sword, a shakuhachi flute, a tobacco pouch, and a towel. On each fantastic kimono design we see the related scene of the actors and their roles in Kabuki drama. The name of the series is followed by the subtitles with the names of their famous kabuki roles. Although Kunisada omits the names of the actors, he puts many visual hints related to the stories and the actors , especially the scenes on their kimono layers and the symbols on the obi sash belts and towels. Therefore the people of Edo at that time knew exactly who they were. Each title cartouche is framed with the specific attributes of the plays. The names of the actors did not appear on the series due to the fact that the censorship under the Tenpo Reforms restricted the publication of Kabuki actors’ portraits. In 1845 the restrictions officially ended; however the publishers of Ukiyo-e were cautious and it is said that they continued to stick to the restrictions. The artists had to be especially creative during this time when it came to actor prints. (With thanks to Michiko Sato-Grube for her research on this artwork.)
Condition: Excellent impression and color. Very good condition. Binding holes at right. Unbacked and untrimmed.
Dimensions: ôban (35.6 x 24.5 cm)
Signature: Upon the request of the publisher (hangimoto no oju ) Kochoro Toyokuni ga (with Toshidama seal in red)