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Ichikawa Ebijūrō I as Tōken Jūbei (市川鰕十郎の唐犬重兵衛) from the play Benimurasaki Aide Someage (Red and Purple, Rich Dyes of Osaka) [紅紫大坂潤]

Identifier: 1822 Hokushu Ebijuro I (2).jpg
Description:

The actor Ichikawa Ebijūrō I (1777-1827) played the role of Tōken [China Dog] Jūbei in the kabuki drama Benimurasaki aide someage [Red and Purple, Rich Dyes of Osaka] only once, in Osaka at the Kado Theater in the 8th month of 1816. However, this print was actually published around the spring of 1822 as part of a series of bust-length portraits ( ōkubi-e, “large head”) on bright yellow backgrounds. There are at least five versions of this eye-catching design with various combinations of inscribed artisan names and publisher marks, the last printed with a blue ground. This impression appears to represent the third state, lacking the original actor’s name and role, as well as the carver’s seal that were at the upper right.

The poem by Hōrai Sanjin seen above reads:

Even Saohime, Goddess of Spring
cannot help but be won over
by the "prawn," Ebijūrō,
the pièce-de-résistance
of the New Year's offering
in this fine spring season.

Saohime mo
nabiki ya suran
hōrai no
ebi wa rippa na
haru no hanagata

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Hokushū was known as a great portraitist who had been the pupil of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), artist of the world-renowned woodcut, The Great Wave. In turn, he took on many students of his own such as Hokuei, Shunkei, and Shunshi, all included in this exhibition.

Trans. John T. Carpenter, Designed for Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings, 1680-1860. (New York: Asia Society and Japanese Art Society, 2008), 211.

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If you click on this print and enlarge it you will notice that Tōken (China Dog) Jūbei has a green lower lip. This was a fashion craze early in the nineteenth century, but finding it on a male figure is rare. However, it also appears on the lower lip of a young man, Koganosuke, in a Hokushū diptych also in the Lyon Collection. See the link to #11.

The green comes from sasabeni, a safflower product, that was terribly expensive. When layered on the lower lip it would transform from red to green and would often have an iridescent glow.

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Illustrated in color in Ukiyo-e Masterpieces in the Collection of Chiba City Museum of Art (千葉市 美術館 所蔵 浮世絵 作品選 - Chiba-shi Bijutsukan shozō ukiyoe sakuhinsen), 2001, p. 81, #193.

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Another copy of this print can be found in the Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden.

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In an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Kyoto: Capital of Artistic Imagination', expected to run from July 24, 2019 to September 20, 2020, is the Met's copy of this print.

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