Artist: Toyohara Kunichika (豊原国周)

Print: Sawamura Tosshō II (二代目沢村訥升) as Tomiki Saburō (冨貴三郎) on the right, Nakamura Shikan IV (中村芝翫) as Hidetarō (英太郎) in the middle, and Ōtani Tomoemon V (五代目大谷友右衛門) on the left as Fukami Jirō (深見次郎) in the play Sangoku Kumiage Tōrō [和漢竺爼上灯篭]

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Dates: created,1867
Dimensions: 28.5 in,13.5 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Kunichika hitsu (国周筆)
Publisher: Kiya Sōjirō (Marks 252 - seal 26-143)
Carver: Horikō Ei (on right and left sheets)

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Waseda University;

Physical description:

Sawamura Tosshō II, Nakamura Shikan IV, and Ōtani Tomoemon V are shown dancing in lion wigs and peony (botan) hats. Nakamura Shikan in the white wig is performing the dance with his two cubs in the red wigs. He brandishes a peony branch in what has been described as a "heaven-earth" pose. Each actor's head is adorned with a peony on top of two open fans. While I do not know which lion dance (Shishimai 獅子舞) is being performed, the following song from the kabuki play "Two Lions" feels appropriate to the scene:

The time has come for the lions
to dance to ancient tunes!
The time has come for the lions
to dance to ancient tunes!
The cups of the peony blooms
now overflow with fragrance!
Exhibiting their massive strength,
here the lion head!
Beat the drums! Let music play
The peony's scent! The peony's scent!
The flowers' golden stamens
emerge from within.
Sporting among the blossoms,
tumbling among the branches,
Surely nothing can surpass
the lions' fierce majesty.
Even among the trees and grasses
there are none that will not bow.
Long may their dance continue,
a thousand autumns!
Long may their dance continue,
a thousand autumns!

From Kabuki Plays on Stage: Restoration and Reform, 1872-1905, James R. Brandon, Samuel L. Leiter, University of Hawaii Press, 2003, p. 53-54.

The above information was taken directly from the Lavenberg Collection.


Note that this triptych exists in at least two states.