Baido Kunimasa, The Story of Takano Choei, Kabuki


Artist: Baido Kunimasa (1848-1920)
Title: Kabuki play, The Story of Takano Choei
Publisher: Tsutsumi Kichibei
Date: 1886
Size: (R) 24.6 x 36.7 (C) 24.6 x 36.6 (L) 24.6 x 36.6 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.

Japanese kabuki theatre started out as a type of dance and evolved into a theatre play, where in order to make a more dramatic and memorable performance the actors wear decorative costumes and apply make-up. Thus, Japanese kabuki is a type of stylised dance-drama.
Surprisingly, it all started with Izumo no Okuni, a woman who began performing a special her own style of dance. Then, kabuki adopted her moves and both male and female artists performed it skillfully. However, in 1629, the government banned women from the theatre as it started attracting bad crowds.


A group of kabuki actors is depicted in this dynamic fight scene, their faces full of troubled emotions. Cherry trees delicately frame the top margin of the print, subtly contrasting with the lively event. Characteristic for Meiji prints red and dark purple Western pigments were applied to the image.

Kunisada III Utagawa (1848 - 1920)

Utagawa Kunisada III was an ukiyo-e printmaker of the Utagawa school, specializing in yakusha-e (pictures of kabuki actors). He began studying under Utagawa Kunisada I at the age of 10, and continued under Kunisada II after their master's death. He originally signed his prints ‘Kunimasa’ or ‘Baido Kunimasa’. About 1889, he began signing his prints ‘Kunisada’, ‘Baido Kunisada’ or ‘Kochoro Kunisada’. By 1892, he was using ‘Hosai’, ‘Kochoro Hosai’, ‘Baido Hosai’, and ‘Utagawa Hosai’.

More Information
Print FormatTriptych
ArtistKunisada III Utagawa (1848 - 1920)
SubjectSamurai & Male, Male & Female, Kabuki Theatre
Size(R) 24.6 x 36.7 (C) 24.6 x 36.6 (L) 24.6 x 36.6 cm
Condition ReportMinor pigment spots, some worn-out colours and oxidised areas.