Katsukawa Shunshō
| Nakamura Nakazō I in the kaomise Performance of the Play Uta kurabe tōsei moyō
1779, 11th month

Signed: Shunshō ga; hosoban, 32.0 x 15.0 cm; nishiki-e

Nakamura Nakazō I in the role of a medieval jichō, the personal servant of a princely family. He is holding a lance, its tip wrapped in cloth, with both hands. The scene was part of a kaomise programme in 1779. Nakazō was considered one of the most ingenious character actors of his day. Shunshō, who was a friend of the actor’s, portrayed him repeatedly. Nakazō also kept a diary, in which he recorded the gossip behind the scenes in the theatre.

Provenance: Hotel Drouot, Paris (December 1961)
Riese Collection #43

The square black hat and the loose white over-kimono are emblems of a jichō, or attendant. Originally, jichō were men who performed outside work maintaining the grounds of a nobleman’s residence. The position became more that of a personal bodyguard, however, with the jichō being chosen for their skill with weapons and ferocious demeanour. Nakazō excelled in these roles, and his most famous portrayal is as Matsuō-maru in the service of the villainous prince Tokihira in the play Sugawara Denju, where his costume and attributes are identical to those in this print except that the kimono is patterned with pine branches (matsu) instead of ginkgo leaves as here. Most of Shunshō’s hosoban designs formed polyptychs. This would probably have been the right panel of a triptych, although the other panels are now known.

Reproduced in Ingelheim catalogue, no. 36