Memorial Portrait of an Actor

by Toyokuni III/Kunisada (1786 - 1864)

Current Status

Memorial Portrait of an Actor by Toyokuni III/Kunisada (1786 - 1864)

Original Toyokuni III/Kunisada (1786 - 1864) Japanese Woodblock Print
Memorial Portrait of an Actor

Shini-e - Literally meaning "death prints," shini-e are a category of Japanese woodblock commemorating the death of a famous kabuki actor, or less commonly, an artist or musician. These memorial portraits often depict the actor dressed in light blue death robes, or portraying a famous role associated with the individual. Some include verses or death poems along with the actor's age and date of death, or a posthumous Buddhist name. Other conventional iconography includes lotus blossoms or petals, incense burners, and prayer beads. The tragic suicide of Ichikawa Danjuro VIII in 1854 at the age of thirty-two resulted in nearly 200 shini-e of the actor. Some shini-e are recycled from earlier kabuki prints with the background blocks recut so they could be rushed into production. Most shini-e are unsigned, although some include the artist's signature. These designs are an interesting area of collecting.

Comments - This print is an altered version of a design from Toyokuni III's 1852 series "Famous Restaurants in the Eastern Capital," with the background replaced by a softly shaded cloud. The earlier print featured Ichikawa Danjuro VIII as Kiyomizu Seigen, so it is possible that this is a memorial portrait of him, but the date seal reads 1852 so we can't be sure.

Artist - Toyokuni III/Kunisada (1786 - 1864)

Image Size - 13 1/2" x 9 1/2"

Condition - This print with excellent detail as shown. Small hole, repaired. Creasing, slight toning and soiling, a few spots. Please see photos for details.

Memorial Portrait of an Actor by Toyokuni III/Kunisada (1786 - 1864)
Memorial Portrait of an Actor by Toyokuni III/Kunisada (1786 - 1864)

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