Utagawa Kunisada II, Kabuki Actor, Tattoo Design

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Artist: Utagawa Kunisada II (Toyokuni IV) (1823 – 1880)
Title: Actor Kawarazaki Gonjuro I as Tokimune Gorobei
Series: Legends of the Dragon Sword and the Thunderbolt of Absolute Truth
Publisher: Katoya Seibei
Date: 1863
Size: 25.2 x 37 cm

Original Japanese woodblock print.


The actor is dressed in light summer kimono, arranged to show off his tattoo. His name refers to a great warrior of the past, suggesting a bond between ancient samurai and modern urban commoners who are equally brave and resourceful. The title of the series refers to two symbols used in Buddhist art to indicate great power. The actor in this print lifts a heavy anchor to prove his strength. Gorobei was the younger of the two Soga brothers, featuring in a famous revenge kabuki play and in this actor’s tattoo design. The cherry blossoms on his shoulders may suggest the short but beautiful lives of the brothers, since cherry blossoms are a traditional metaphor for warriors who die young.

More Information
Print Format Oban (Vertical)
Artist Name Toyokuni IV Utagawa (Kunisada II)
Title Actor Kawarazaki Gonjuro I as Tokimune Gorobei
Subject Samurai & Male, Kabuki Theatre, Tattoo
Dimensions 25.2 × 37 cm
Condition Report Soiled margins. Minor holes that have been restored at the top. Worn edges. Horizontal fold mark through the middle. Colour unevenly applied at the top.

Toyokuni IV Utagawa (Kunisada II)