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Nakamura Utaemon III (中村歌右衛門) as Kan Shōjō (菅丞相) in Sugiwara's Secrets of Calligraphy (Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami - 菅原伝授手習鑑)

Identifier: 1823 Hokushu Utaemon III as Kanshojo
Description:

The background of this print uses the itame mokuhan (板目木版) or imitation woodgrain technique. "The printing of a wood grain within a print. A wood plank is soaked in water to open up the grain and is then inked and printed to intentionally reproduce the nature of the wood itself."

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The exact date is in the cartouche along the right side. It reads: Bunsei 6, 3rd month - 文政六癸未年三月. 癸未 indicates that it is the 20th year of the 60 year cycle.

The inscription at the top reads 奉納 which translates as 'dedication'.

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Illustrated:

1) In Ikeda Bunko, Kamigata yakusha-e shūsei (Collected Kamigata Actor Prints), vol. 1, Osaka, 1998, no. 145.

2) In color in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in European Collections: Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Brussels, vol. 9, Kodansha, 1989, #243.

The example in Brussels is printed in certain areas with metallic inks and would be considered a deluxe edition. That example is not as full a sheet as this one, especially on the left side.

The use of a faux wooden support with a frame is reminiscent of a Japanese votive painting.

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The text in the upper right of the print reads starting at the first line:

菅原伝授手習鑑

七役之内菅相丞之役

中村歌右衛門勤之

On the left border it reads: 願主 利倉屋新兵衛

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There is another copy of this print in the Oita Prefectural Center.

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