Utagawa Kunimasa
Memorial Portrait of the Actor Danjūrō VI

Signed: Kunimasa ga; shini-e, ōban, 37.5 x 25.5 cm; benigirai-e with karazuri

This is one of the first ukiyo-e dedicated to the memory of an actor, namely to Ichikawa Danjūrō VI (1778–1799) who died at a young age. On the left, apparently emulating Danjūrō’s own handwriting, is his death poem: “Over the mountains, / over streams and rivers he flies, / the cuckoo.” Kawa (river) is part of the name Ichikawa. The Japanese cuckoo hototogisu is associated with death and the journey of the soul.

F. Trikotin; La Tour de Peilz (May 1966)
Riese Collection #101

Kawa, or river, is the second character of the name Ichikawa. The hototogisu, a kind of cuckoo, is associated with death and the passage of the soul.

Reproduced in: Ingelheim catalogue, no. 90a.