Witty Matchings of the Thirty-Six Poets (Mitate Sanjurokkasen no uchi)

Artist: Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞 (1786-1865)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1852, 7th month
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 36.2 x 25.3 cm (14 1/4 x 9 15/16 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, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kabuki, poems, ukiyo-e
Provenance research underway.

In this print, Ichikawa Danjuro VI is depicted in the role of Arajishi Otonosuke in a play dealing with the troubles of the Date clan in the fourteenth century. He wears the striking kumadori stage makeup that was introduced by Danjuro I in the late seventeenth century. He holds an iron-framed fan that he used as a weapon in the play to thwart Nikki Danjo, the villain who transformed himself into a rat to steal a scroll. This print is one of a series created by Kunisada in 1852, when he produced a large number of half-length actor portraits. In this series, each actor is matched with one of the Thirty-six Poets, in this case Mibu no Tadamine (flourished 898-920). The poem alludes to the rat-day of the New Year when pine seedlings were gathered as auspicious symbols of longevity:

 Rat-day festivities-
 if there were no pine saplings in the fields
 to serve as a symbol of long life
 what would we have to pull up?

Translation of poem by John T. Carpenter

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 43, pp. 140-141.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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