The Actors Nakamura Utaemon III as Kumagai Naozane and Iwai Shijaku I as Taira no Atsumori Disguised as Kohagi

Artist: Shunbaisai Hokuei (active 1829-1837)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 1832
Ink, color, silver mica and brass on paper
H x W (overall): 36.6 x 24.5 cm (14 7/16 x 9 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, battle, Edo period (1615 - 1868), fan, Japan, kabuki, oban, portrait, theater, ukiyo-e, yakusha-e
Provenance research underway.

Nakamura Utaemon III, who thrilled kabuki audiences in both Osaka and Edo, raises his battle fan over the young warrior Taira no Atsumori (1168-1184), played by Iwai Shijaku I (Hanshiro VII; 1804-1845). The story is loosely based on the famous incident in The Tale of the Heike (Heike monogatari) in which Kumagai Naozane (1141- 1208), a Minamoto commander, initially spares Atsumori, but later kills him when his own troops approach. In the kabuki version, Atsumori hides in a fan-seller's shop in the guise of a woman, Kohagi. Here Kumagai, who has come to purchase a battle fan, confronts the disguised Atsumori. In a later incident, the two warriors battle at Kyoto's Gojo Bridge, and Kumagai decides to renounce his life as a warrior to join a Buddhist order. Collaboration between the artist Hokuei and the block engraver Kasuke created some of the finest Osaka prints. Here the exceptional quality of the block engraving can be seen especially in the fine lines delineating the actors' wigs. Graded color printing also enhances the artistry of this design.

Published References
  • Ann Yonemura, et al. Masterful Illusions: Japanese Prints from the Anne van Biema Collection. Seattle and Washington. cat. 61, pp. 174-175.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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