Katsukawa Shunshō
Ichikawa Danjūrō V as Kamakura Gongorō Kagemasa in the Shibaraku Scene

Signed: Shunshō ga; hosoban, 31.8 x 14.4 cm; benizuri-e

Ichikawa Danjūrō V performing the dance pose “six directions” (roppō) on the “flower passage” (hanamichi), the runway though the seating area in kabuki theatre, in the same costume as Danzō III (cf. cat.99). The trailing movement of his leg gave rise to the designation ”lobster” (ebi) — purportedly an allusion to the first name of a thespian forefather, Ebizō (cf. cat.70). The hooked nose clearly identifies him as Danjūrō V.

Provenance: R. E. Lewis, San Francisco (June 1971)
Riese Collection #41

Dr. Hempel has made the ingenious observation that the actor’s unusual pose in this print resembles a prawn and argued that the print may have been published in 11/1772 for a performance in which the actor Danjuro IV took the name of Ichikawa Ebizō III, since the actor’s name begins with ebi, the Japanese for prawn. This suggestion would surely have won here the hearts of connoisseurs of Shunshō’s day, but as she was the first to point out, the profile of the actor is that of Ichikawa Danjuro V, and the print must date to a performance in 1770, Danjūrō’s first Shibaraku, or 1771. Only one other impression of this striking print seems to be known (Sotheby’s, 12 March 1973, no. 18).

Reproduced in Riese, Asiatische Studien, 1972, p. 90, no. 14 (colour)