Torii Kiyomitsu I
The Actor Arashi Sankatsu I (Arashi Shinpei II) as Kaga no Okiku

Signed: Torii Kiyomitsu ga; Publisher’s logo: mori (Moriya); hoso-ban, 30.7 x 14.3 cm; benizuri-e

In the role of a young beauty writing poems, the female impersonator Arashi Sankatsu is sitting on a bamboo bench. He is wearing a long-sleeved kimono (furisode), which is decorated with maple leaves. The motif is symbolic of the Tanabata Festival, which takes place on the 7th of July. Thus, the chrysanthemums (kiku) in the background are not meant as autumn flowers, but rather as an allusion to the name of the protagonist, Kaga no Okiku (“Chrysanthemum from [the province of] Kaga”).

Provenance: Mayuyama and Co., Tōkyō (1962)
Riese Collection #15

Arashi Sankatsu arrived in Edo from Ōsaka in 3/1762 and acted at the Nakamura-za theatre through the autumn of 1764. He is not listed in this role in the incomplete theatrical records of this period, but the flower-shaped poem slip the actor holds in his hand is associated with the Tanabata festival which took place on the 7th day of the 7th month, and the play cited above is the only play given at the Nakamura-za during the 7th month within this span of three years. Chrysanthemums are usually associated with festivities in the 9th month of the Japanese lunar calendar, being symbolic of autumn, but since the bamboo bench is also suggestive of a summer festival, they are probably intended as a visual pun on the actor’s role name. The young woman’s name, Okiku, means Chrysanthemum. “Kaga no” means “from the province of Kaga”.
This print, which dates from the last years before the introduction of full colour printing, is a particularly fine example of a benizuri-e, a two-colour print in red and green.

Reproduced in Ingelheim catalogue, no. 21.
Riese, Asiatische Studien, 1972, p. 78, no. 6.