Utagawa Yoshiiku: Silhouette of the Actor Kawarazaki Kunitarô I 初代河原崎国太郎

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Artist: Ochiai (Utagawa) Yoshiiku (1833-1904)
Title: Silhouette of the Actor Kawarazaki Kunitarô I 初代河原崎国太郎
Series: Portraits as True Likenesses in the Moonlight  真寫月花の姿絵 
Date: 1867

Inspired by popular shadow performances, which were performed in front of a sliding door with a bright light behind them, as well as the development of photographs by camera, Yoshiiku made this series of works that portray the silhouettes of 36 famous actors, comparing them to the 36 Immortal Poets. They seem to have been done from life, with the actors actually sitting for their portraits behind a screen, as this is illustrated in the preface for the series. Here is the portrait of Kawarazaki Kunitarô I (1849-1867 April) in silhouette. He was the son of Kawarazaki Gon’nosuke VII, and started at the Ichimura-za in Edo in February 1859 and played the roles of young adolescents, wakashû-gata (also known as persons of a third gender). Then in November 1863, he shifted to playing the roles of young maidens and princesses, waka-on’na-gata. The silhouette indeed looks very feminine, so we can see how the actor gravitated to playing female roles.

The inset on the right top shows one of his roles as a young maiden, probably Oyoshi of Ejima-ya. She has a kimono with the family crest of a pink, the flower nadeshiko. The haiku poem at left has the red seal “ Kunitaro-o”.

Condition: Very good impression, color and condition. 
Dimensions: ôban (36.5 x 23.1 cm)
Publisher: Hirôka-ya
Literature:  See MFA Boston, Honolulu Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum for other works from this series.

Signature: Ikkeisai Yoshiiku hitsu