Natori Shunsen, ‘New Versions of Figures on the Stage: Actor Nakamura Kichiemon I as Kumagai Naozane’, 1952, Scholten Japanese Art

with mica ground, signed Shunsen with artist's seal Shunsen, publisher's seal Watanabe (Watanabe Shozaburo), dated Showa nijunananen ichigatsu saku (made in Showa 27 [1952], January)

dai oban tate-e 16 by 10 7/8 in., 40.5 by 27.5 cm

The actor Nakamura Kichiemon I (1886-1956) is in the role of Kumagai Naozane from the play Ichinotani Futaba Gunki (Chronicle of the Battle of Ichinotani), derived from the 12th century Heike Monogatari (The Tale of Heike). Kumagai is a general in Minamoto no Yoshitsune's army who must sacrifice his own son to maintain his and his lord's honor. Such sacrifices are relatively common in medieval kabuki tales, and usually result from obligations owed to one or another's family. In this story, Kumagai has captured the enemy warrior Taira no Atsumori, and is obligated to execute him. However, Kumagai once served under Atsumori's mother, the Lady Fuji no Kata, during which time the lady saved him from capital punishment after he fell in love with a courtesan. As a result of this personal history, Kumagai finds himself required to do the righteous thing and execute his own son in Atsumori's place. To recover from this traumatic episode, Kumagai retires from Yoshitsune's service and becomes a priest.

Series: New Versions of Figures on the Stage

Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art

Publisher: Watanabe Shozaburo

Yamaguchi Keizoro, Shunsen Natori Exhibition Catalogue, Kushigata, 1991, no. 42
Kozo Yamada, Shunsen Natori: Collection of the Kushigata Shunsen Museum of Art, 2002, p. 53, cat. no. 79
Samuel L. Leiter, Historical Dictionary of Japanese Traditional Theater, 2014, pp. 179-180 (re: play)

About Natori Shunsen