Comparison of Contemporary Fans: The Actor Sawamura Kunitaro II as the Fox Kuzunoha

Artist: Shunkōsai Hokushū 春好斎 北洲 (fl. ca. 1810-1832)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1824
Ink and color on paper
H x W (overall): 37.3 x 25.6 cm (14 11/16 x 10 1/16 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), fan, fox, Japan, kabuki, oban, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e
Provenance research underway.

This delightful portrait comes from a set of four prints, each depicting an actor in a role for the play Ashiya doman ouchi kagami, which was performed at the Kita Horie Theater, Osaka, in 1824. This print, marked "center," portrays the actor Sawamura Kunitaro II (?-1836) as the fox-spirit Kuzunoha. He also assumed the role of the real Kuzunoha in the play. In the complete set of prints, this portrait appears between prints of the actors, Nakamura Utaemon III as Yakampei and Ichikawa Ebijuro I (1777-1827) as Yokampei, who mirror each other's actions. Utaemon also played the subject of the fourth print in the set, Abe no Yasuna, who marries the fox-spirit in the guise of Kuzunoha. Playing both the real Kuzunoha and her imposter highlights the skills of the onnagata in creating subtly demanding characterization.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 51, pp. 154-155.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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