Utagawa Toyokuni III (Utagawa Kunisada), ‘Actor Nakamura Shikan IV as Kiyomizu no Chigo Sutewakamaru’, 1860, Scholten Japanese Art

signed Toyokuni ga within the artist's Toshidama cartouche, publisher's seal Sho, Kinshodo (Ebisuya Shoshichi of Kinshodo), carver's seal Horiko Ryuzo (Shimizu Ryuzo), combined censor and date seal Saru-san, aratame (year of the Monkey [1860], 3rd month, examined)

oban tate-e 13 7/8 by 9 1/2 in., 35.4 by 24 cm

This print part of the Kinshodo-ban yakusha okubi-e (Kinshodo's Large-Head Actor Portraits) series of portraits which Kunisada undertook very late in life. The ambitious series depicted great actors from the past and present in famous roles.
The actor Nakamura Shikan IV (1831-1899) is in the role of Kiyomizu no Chigo Sutewakamaru from the play Keisei Chigogafuchi (The Chigogafuchi Pool). The play is based on a 12th century incident in which Shiragikumaru, a young chigo (lit. temple page) and Sutewakamaru's historical antecedent, is romantically pursued by two priests. Rather than choosing between them, Shiragikumaru commits suicide by jumping into a deep water pool.

Image rights: Scholten Japanese Art

Publisher: Ebisuya Shoshichi of Kinshodo

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (www.mfa.org), from the Bigelow Collection, accession no. 11.15486

About Utagawa Toyokuni III (Utagawa Kunisada)