Utagawa Yoshiiku: Silhouette of the Actor Nakamura Aizô 中村相蔵

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Artist: Ochiai (Utagawa) Yoshiiku (1833-1904)
Title: Silhouette of the Actor Nakamura Aizô 中村相蔵
Series: Portraits as True Likenesses in the Moonlight  真寫月花の姿絵 
Date: 1867

Silhouette portrait of the actor Nakamura Aizô holding a fan. He wears his hair in the traditional Edo period hairstyle for men. Above we see the actor in a role where he wears a yukata decorated with the theme of the seashore.

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. It is unusual in ukiyo-e to see actors portrayed in a way that may be today considered “realistic”, as features were generally stylized within certain artistic conventions.

The haiku poem at left has the red seal “ Aizô”. Perhaps it was composed by the actor himself.

Condition: Excellent impression and color. Very good condition. With some minor nibbles at right edge from binding holes
Dimensions: ôban (36.5 x 23.4 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