Artist: Shunkōsai Hokushū (春好斎北洲)

Print: Ichikawa Ebijūrō I as Tōken (China Dog) Jūbei (市川鰕十郎の唐犬重兵衛)
from the play Benimurasaki Aide Someage (Red and Purple, Rich Dyes of Osaka)

Bookmark and Share
Dates: circa 1822,created
Dimensions: 10.25 in,14.6 in,Overall dimensions
Medium: color woodblock print

Signed: Shunkōsai Hokushū ga
Artist's seal: Hokushū

Related links: The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Honolulu Museum of Art; Chiba City Museum of Art; Philadelphia Museum of Art - blue ground; Hankyu Culture Foundation - blue ground;

Physical description:

The actor Ichikawa Ebijūrō I (1777-1827) played the role of Tōken [China Dog] Jūbei in the kabuki drama Benimurasaki aide someage [Red and Purple, Rich Dyes of Osaka] only once, in Osaka at the Kado Theater in the 8th month of 1816. However, this print was actually published around the spring of 1822 as part of a series of bust-length portraits ( ōkubi-e, “large head”) on bright yellow backgrounds. There are at least five versions of this eye-catching design with various combinations of inscribed artisan names and publisher marks, the last printed with a blue ground. This impression appears to represent the third state, lacking the original actor’s name and role, as well as the carver’s seal that were at the upper right.

The poem by Hōrai Sanjin seen above reads:

Even Saohime, Goddess of Spring, Saohime mo
Even Saohime, Goddess of Spring, Saohime mo
cannot help but be won over nabiki ya suran
by the prawn [“Ebi”] hōrai no
the pièce-de-résistance ebi wa rippa na
of the New Year offering haru no hanagata

Hokushū was known as a great portraitist who had been the pupil of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), artist of the world-renowned woodcut, The Great Wave. In turn, he took on many students of his own such as Hokuei, Shunkei, and Shunshi, all included in this exhibition.

Trans. John T. Carpenter, Designed for Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings, 1680-1860. (New York: Asia Society and Japanese Art Society, 2008), 211.