Natori Shunsen, ‘Creative Prints, Collected Portraits of Shunsen: Actors Ichikawa Schocho II as Umegawa and Kataoka Gado IV as Chubei’, ca. 1928, Scholten Japanese Art

double portrait of the onnagata Ichikawa Shocho II with elaborate hair combs looking to the right and Kataoka Gado IV in foreground looking to the left; signed Shunsen ga with artist's seals Shun and Sen, and artist's approval seal Natori at lower right edge, from an edition limited to 150 impressions, ca. 1927
dai oban yoko-e 39.9 by 27.6 cm
The actor Ichikawa Shocho II (1886-1940) is in the role of Umegawa, and the actor Kataoka Gado IV (Kataoka Nizaemon XII, 1882-1946) is in the role of Chubei. There are a number of plays which tell the tragic love story of Umegawa and Chubei, the most famous of which include Umegawa Chubei (Umegawa and Chubei), Ninokuchi Mura (named after the home town of Chubei), Ko Bikyaku Yamato Orai (The Love Messenger of Yamato), and Fuingiri (The Broken Seal). All tell some variation of an episode from Osaka in 1710, in which a courier named Chubei was executed after using money entrusted to his care to help his lover, the courtesan Umegawa. In theatrical reimaginations of the event, the couple escapes prosecution and runs off. In some versions, the play concludes with the couple's double suicide, though in others the lovers embark on a journey, their doomed fate implied but not enacted. Theatrical productions of this tale were staged in Osaka and in Kyoto only one year after the historical execution. These were the first of many, as the story would come to be a popular one of both the puppet and the kabuki theaters.

Series: Creative Prints, Collected Portraits of Shunsen

Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art

Yamaguchi Keizoro, Natori Shunsen (exhibition catalogue), Kushigata, 1991, no. 28
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 32, cat. no. 24
Laura J., Mueller, Strong Women, Beautiful Men: Japanese Portrait Prints from the Toledo Museum of Art, 2006, p. 74, pl. 46
Lucie Folan et. al., Stars of the Tokyo Stage: Natori Shunsen's Kabuki Actor Prints, National Gallery of Australia, 2012, p. 101
Carolyn M. Putney, et. al., Fresh Impressions: Early Modern Japanese Prints, Toledo Museum of Art, 2013, p. 194, cat. no. 157

About Natori Shunsen