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The Printer's Eye: Ukiyo-e from the Grabhorn Collection

The actor Ichikawa Danzo IV in a Shibaraku role
by Katsukawa Shunsho (Japanese, 1726–1792)
Woodblock print; ink and colors on paper

Ichikawa Danzō IV appears here in the shibaraku role, among the most flamboyant and popular of Kabuki's set pieces. It shows off to best effect the "rough style" (aragoto) acting that was the specialty of the line of actors bearing the Ichikawa name. During his career Shunshō created several shibaraku prints, varying the arrangement of the distinctive deep red costume associated with the role and emphasizing the actor's stage makeup and contorted face. Here Danzō's eyes are crossed in a moment of high dramatic intensity; his mouth curved eloquently downward, his lips open in a terrifying grimace. Head sunk between the stiff upraised shoulders of his costume, Danzō sweeps his broad, geometric sleeves to the front of his body, displaying the dramatic mimasu crest of nested measuring boxes. A folding fan at his chest provides a visual counterweight to the upright curve of the sword at his back.

As in no. 50, binding holes at the right edge of this print indicate that it was once mounted in an album. Laura W. Allen

Courtesy of Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, Gift of the Grabhorn Ukiyo-e Collection , 2005.100.49

Image © Asian Art Museum, San Francisco.