Artist: Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳)

Print: Nakamura Utaemon IV as Daruma portrayed on a hanging scroll - Ni Daruma no ichijiku (似達磨の一軸)

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Dates: circa 1848,created
Dimensions: 9.75 in,14.25 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: Japanese color woodblock print

Signed: Ichiyūsai Kuniyoshi hitsu
Seal: Kuniyoshi
Publisher: Ibaya Senzaburō
(Marks 127 - seal 11-001)
Censor seals: Murata and Mera

Related links: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts; Hagi Uragami Museum of Art; Lyon Collection - related Kuniyoshi diptych from this same play;Lyon Collection - another related Kuniyoshi diptych from this same play;

Physical description:

This representation of Utaemon IV 'cutting a mie' as a painting of Daruma is almost singular in Japanese woodblock prints. Even the use of broad black lines as if they were applied with a brush, such as the ones to be found in paintings of Daruma, while not unheard of, is highly unusual. Was the creation of this image the brainchild of Kuniyoshi, Utaemon, the publisher or the theater that produced the play? I am not sure we will ever know precisely, but are all richer for its existence.

Note: Click on the link above to the other example in the Lyon Collection and you will see that just such a scroll painting was used as a prop in a play at this time. However, that takes nothing away from the clever nature of this particular print. (JSV)


This print commemorates a performance of the play Takagi Oriemon Budō Jitsuroku (高木織右武実録) at the Nakamura Theater.



1) In color in Heroes and Ghosts: Japanese Prints by Kuniyoshi 1797-1861 by Robert Schaap, p. 161.

2) In color in Kuniyoshi by Jūzō Suzuki, Heibonsha Limited, Publishers, 1992, no. 316.

3) In color in Japanese Prints: Images of the Floating World, Barry Davies Oriental Art, #72, illustrated on p. 95.

4) in black and white in Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Springfield Museum of Art, 1980, #159.