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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada (歌川国貞) / Toyokuni III (三代豊国)

Print: Ichikawa Ebizō VI as Namazu Bōzu in front of Danjūrō VII's portrait

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Dates: 1830,created
Dimensions: 7.25 in,8.25 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese woodblock print
Inscription:

Signed: Kōchōrō Kunisada ga
香蝶楼国貞画
Artist's seal: double toshidama in red

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Harvard Museums; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts; Rijksmuseum; Lyon Collection - Kunisada fan print with yau seal motif;New York Public Library;

Physical description:

This fine surimono shows the young actor, Ichikawa Ebizō VI, eight years old at the time, as Namazu Bōzu in front of a portrait of his famous father, Ichikawa Danjūrō VII. This portrait is framed by the mon (crest) of the Ichikawa family. Ebizō VI was a precocious actor who was to commit suicide in 1854 when he was just 30 years old. He succeeded to the name Danjūrō VIII in the third month of 1832 when his father took back the name Ebizô V. This double portrait could have been made on that occasion.

Surimono which mostly had been commissioned by poetry circles on specific occasions, like for the beginnning of a new year or on the occasion of anniversaries, but also by other artists like actors on the occasion of name changes (as most likely in this case)- were given as presents to selected people. They were published privately in very small editions of sometimes only 20 impressions.

If you use the zooming tool to enlarge this print you will see that there is a poem, or poems, written - probably in metallic inks - in the dark blue area to the left.

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"The print was probably issued to commemorate the son's role as Kobōzu Donguri, 'the little priest Acorn' in a performance of Ichiyoraifuku Shibuya no tsuwamono at the Kawarazaki Theater in the eleventh month of 1830. The red robe of the youthful actor is adorned with a 'yau' seal-motif; this is an alternative name for many Ichikawa actors and also the name of the family's residence in Fukugawa....

There is another version of this surimono bearing different poems [in the Rijksmuseum]. In this impression, the poems (partially illegible) are by Shunyūtei and Chigusaan."

Quoted from: Jewels of Japanese Printmaking: Surimono of the Bunka-Bunsei Era 1804-1830, by Joan Mirviss, p. 144. Illustrated in color on p. 145.

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Illustrated in color - along with a text - in Surimono in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam by Matthi Forrer, p. 291.

Near full-page, black and white illustration in volume IV of Japanese Prints in the Rijkmuseum: Hiroshige and the Utagawa School, pp. 86-87. The poems on this copy are by Hōshutei Funauta and Hōshitei (=Masunari).

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The text on the print reads:

「宝珠亭船唄 むさし野に柴もひそられと春雨のおやのひかりをか(?)る若艸」「宝市亭 そか中になくてかなはしらひつみの子海老なからも春のたてもの」