The Actor Bando Mitsugoro IV as Kan Shojo

Artist: Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 (1786-1865)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1832
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 23.2 x 27 cm (9 1/8 x 10 5/8 in)
Credit Line
The Anne van Biema Collection
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Woodblock print

actor, Anne van Biema collection, archery, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kabuki, portrait, theater
Provenance research underway.

Kan Shojo, the role played by Bando Mitsugoro IV (1800- 1863) according to the inscription on this print, represents the courtier Sugawara no Michizane (845-903). The famous play, Sugawara and the Secrets of Calligraphy (Sugawara denju tenarai kagami), which was performed both in kabuki and puppet theaters, has a complex plot based on the life of Michizane, who was exiled to Kyushu because of the actions of a rival at the imperial court. In this brilliant design by Kunisada, the actor raises the sleeve of his robe, which is decorated with a stylized plum-blossom motif that is associated with this role. To the right is an arrow hitting a bull's-eye, a symbol that was hung in the towers of kabuki theaters to indicate a "hit" play. This print commemorates a performance in the year that Mitsugoro inherited his adoptive father's name, under which he carried on a rivalry with Nakamura Utaemon IV (1796?-1852) that had begun between the actors' respective fathers.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 38, pp. 128-129.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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