Kunisada: The Ghost of Seigen

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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1865)
Title: The great kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VIII as the Ghost of Seigen
Series: Comparisons for Thirty-six Selected Poems 見立三十六歌撰之内 (Mitate sanjûrokkasen no uchi)
Date: 1852

The great kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjûrô VIII as the Ghost of Seigen. The poem is by Ariwara no Narihira Ason, top right. Seigen was a former monk who became obsessed with the Kyoto courtesan Sakura-hime and was expelled from his monastery; he then starves to death in unrequited torture. Here we see his ghost, all in shades of blue and grey, wandering unhappily during a springtime rainstorm to haunt his former lover. Perhaps the cherry blossoms seen in the background alludes to Sakura-hime, as sakura of course means cherry trees. The poem also refers to blooming cherry trees.

Provenance: Varshavsky Collection

Condition: Good impression, color and condition. Binding holes at right and some repairs to cartouche.
Dimensions: ôban (36 x 24.9 cm)
Publisher: Iseya Kanekichi
Literature: See MFA for another example.  Marks, Japanese Woodblock Prints (2010), p. 297.
Signature: Toyokuni ga